I was saddened to find out that one of WP’s oldest alligators was euthanized, as in killed with empathy, just recently. His crime? He grew. That was his terrible offense. One of our neighbors, whose children play near the pond the alligator called his home for many years, felt his size was threatening. One choice would have been to require her child to play elsewhere. Her choice was to call the PAI who then put the “problem” in front of the Board. In SC, alligators cannot be relocated. Nuisance alligators may be killed (softly called “harvesting”) so as to not be a nuisance. Let’s be sure we understand “nuisance alligator”. The current legal definition of a nuisance alligator is one that “is depredating (killing livestock or pets) or a threat to human health or safety”. This gator needed a good defense attorney. He had not ventured beyond his domain, he had not approached any person or pet. Was he a surprise alligator? No, he lived here probably longer than any of us. We knew of him and his cousins who swim and hunt in our ponds and bask on the sunny banks for warmth. Signs tell us not to bother them or feed them. So far, they’ve left us alone because we left them alone. What a concept. When we, as homeowners, purchased here, did anyone attempt to disavow the existence of these reptiles closely related to dinosaurs? No, we are proud of them. They are an important part of our natural history.
Do you know that ecologically, alligators are important predators and create important habitat for other wildlife by digging holes that hold water during droughts. Did you know that being “ecotherms”, alligators do not need to eat much…a 100-lb dog will eat more in a year than an 800-lb alligator. Further, alligators have a natural fear of humans; it is extremely rare for alligators to chase people.
What is needed is a better-educated populace here in WP. Please do not feed the gators or the turtles who co-exist in the same ponds. Please do not allow small children to play by themselves in or around the ponds. Please closely supervise children who are playing around the ponds. Please inform others that feeding alligators creates problems for your neighbors who want to use the water for recreational purposes, like fishing. SC law (Section 50-11-750) is clear. It is unlawful to feed or entice with food any alligator. Any personal violating the provisions of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be fined … or imprisoned…
Let’s think hard before we react….or overreact. Let’s act responsibly. Let’s not kill another gator who is minding his own business.
Written by Marguerite Carver
The Richardson Group