Are there alligators in columbia south carolina

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In an image from a video by Ray White, a group of folks battles to capture an alligator in the ocean near Pawleys Pier in August Imagine if the Godzilla-size alligators had a primary range in South Carolina. Then picture a wet and swampy rectangular box stretching from the lakes outside of Columbia, down toward the jungles north and south of Charleston.

The monster gators — the and footers that can weigh a half-ton — tend to slink through the mid-state down toward the wide coastal zone. The largest South Carolina alligator reported killed in was 13 feet, 5 inches long — exceptionally large by state standards — taken from the Waccamaw River near Murrells Inlet.

In , a foot behemoth was taken closer to the South of the Border tourist landmark on Interstate 95 than to the coast when nuisance gator removal agent Dennis Matherly took one from a pond near the Great Pee Dee River. That was 40 miles inland, near Florence. Giant gators like these, however, are becoming harder to find since public hunts were launched in But they're still out there.

Along with , of their cousins. He was boss and he wasn't leaving," said veteran wild game hunter Maryellen Mara-Christian of Fitchburg, Mass. Hers weighed in at 1, pounds — massive enough for biggest bragging rights in a state that doesn't keep official records. The best time to spot them is now. By April, males are out roaming and fighting for territory. By May, they're calling for mates, vibrating the water around them and bellowing with a deep rumble that sounds like a cross between a bullfrog and that long throaty growl some dogs make.

Hop in a boat or hike a levee to go see one, but give them plenty of room. The S. Department of Natural Resources warns people — on land or in the water — not to approach, harass or feed them. It's against the law. They're also shy and quick to disappear when spooked. It's a real bad idea. You're in the water in a boat at night. If you're not experienced with hunting and hunting big game, there's a lot that can go wrong in a hurry," said fishing guide Landon McDowell, who snared that record pounder from the Waccamaw.

American alligators can live about as long as humans. They rarely grow longer than 14 feet. Six feet long is the mark between juvenile and adult alligator. An 8-foot alligator is considered mature. After that, the question is not whether it's huge, but how huge.

Hunters, guides and meat processors agree the monster, foot-plus gators are concentrated in the middle of the coast. In , of gators captured during the state's annual hunt were 10 feet or longer, according to DNR records, and 86 of those came from the middle coastal areas that include the lakes and surrounding wetlands.

Around suburban Charleston, a footinch gator was pulled from the Ashley River near a housing development in Summerville. In April, a 9-footer had to be removed from a second-story porch in Mount Pleasant near the Wando River. Some of the best spots for an almost guaranteed glimpse of one of the huge prehistoric reptiles include the impoundment of the state's Santee Coastal Reserve near McClellanville.

Highway 17 south of Charleston. The ACE Basin is favorable. Gators tend to grow big particularly near waterfowl impoundments near now-feral historic rice fields where they find prey, cover and nests. The levees of waterfowl rice fields on plantation land along the Cooper River in Berkeley County have become notorious for them.

Alligators can be spotted year-round. They never really hibernate and will come out of their burrows any time the air warms. But when spring hits they are moving, the males become less likely to back away from an encounter. And mean gators can mean business. In , a snorkeler lost an arm in Lake Moultrie. In , a golfer lost an arm retrieving his ball from a course pond on Fripp Island. Last year, an year-old woman who wandered from an assisted-living center in West Ashley was mortally injured by an alligator in a pond nearby.

She became the first alligator-related death in the state since records have been kept. For this year's annual public hunt, applications opened May 1 and the filing period goes until June 15 for a chance in a lottery draw. Permit-winners must hook or snare the animal and pull it to the boat before killing it.

Rifles can't be used. We broke a harpoon and we broke another harpoon. It was just big. It was really big, and what I remember is it was heavy," said hunter Mara-Christian. You had to pay attention. Because of the danger, guns aren't allowed when gator removal-agent Ron Russell of Gator Getter Consultants takes people out to hunt them. He prefers to make the kill by dragging the head over the boat gunwale and stabbing it. If someone along is too squeamish for that, he'll hand over a bang stick, essentially a pipe holding a shot-gun-type slug that fires when it's pressed to the hide.

He recalls the story of one hunter who accidentally shot his own foot, and another who ended up shot in the hand. There likely are a lot more examples of miscues, he said. Alligators are a protected species but more than 1, of them are killed in the state each year by the public, private land owners and nuisance removal hunters d by the state.

There's a historical estimate of about , alligators in South Carolina. But nobody knows yet how many alligators are out there, much less how many can be removed and still sustain the species. Few who deal with alligators regularly doubt the hunt has made an impact.

The animals are the top of the riverlands food chain, and the loss of alpha predators like that has been shown to disrupt entire ecosystems. They also are "sentinel" animals that have been studied at the Medical University of South Carolina because, if their health suffers because of contaminants in the environment, humans' could too.

Research continues to discover more positives about alligators. In some cases, alligators that were tagged in and recaptured in were exactly the same length they were 35 years before. Some older females were putting out the same of viable eggs as they did 35 years ago, according to the report.

The creatures remain marquee draws for the multi-million dollar ecotourism and hunting industries in the state. The reputation of the Sea Pines Plantation in Hilton Head as a prime vacation destination was launched with a magazine photo featuring founder Charles Fraser walking on a fairway alongside a large gator. Hunt supporters say the culls are needed to control the population of dangerous quarter-ton reptiles. Critics say the hunts are little more than slaughter of the recently re-established species, prodded by legislators representing hunting interests.

Environmentalists say the large gators targeted in the hunts are the brood stock needed to maintain a healthy population. Still, more alligators are "removed" each year from private lands than during the public hunt. A multi-year study expected to be finished by the end of the summer is deed to update that , population estimate and give DNR biologists management guidance.

In , five years into the annual hunt and halfway through the field work, the study wasn't finding a lot of gators above the foot mark. Russell has been among the lead critics of the hunts that target the larger, top breeder alligators. The remaining bigger gators now sink at the approach of a boat and move away underwater rather than resurface in place, he said. So now, "the medium-sized guys are getting hammered. The population is not going to maintain. It's going to dwindle dramatically.

So far, researchers don't have enough data to indicate if there is a long-term detrimental effect on the size, growth or genetic fitness of the population when the big ones are removed, said Kent Vliet, a University of Florida biologist who studies the animals. They have the most access to breeding females, control other males in the population, and generally stabilize the social order of the adult alligator population," he said.

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Are there alligators in columbia south carolina

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Alligators in South Carolina