Alligators like these a at Swamp Park frequently lie together in groups while basking in the sun to raise their body temperature. After a
44-year hunting ban, the North Carolina Alligator Management Plan allows limited hunting by permit only, one alligator per
season. Licensure is available by application, through a lottery system in designated hunt areas.
“A local biologist will do a site visit,” Davis says. “It would be
up to that biologist to make a determination if that alligator
needs to be relocated. Most of the time it is relocated for the
alligator’s safety. It’s people misbehaving and not the alligator.”
About four or five are moved a month during the summer.
Often, they are taken back to the wild. The Holly Shelter
Game Land in Pender County often is a gator’s new home.
Sometimes it’s the Green Swamp in Brunswick County.
Sometimes, the determination is made that there has been
too much interaction with humans, or the gator would be
unlikely to survive in the wild.
“Two to three times a year here lately an alligator will turn up
well out of alligator range, in the Piedmont or foothills,” Davis
says. “A person assisted it in getting there. We have to assume
that animal was in captivity for some time. Maybe someone got
it as a pet and released it, which is illegal. It could have a disease,
or been fed by people all its life. We don’t want to release it into
wild areas. We try to take them to captivity when we can.”
That is where an alligator rescue facility like the Swamp
Park comes in.
“The only time we are able to accept an alligator is if N.C.
Wildlife determines it is a nuisance in such a manner that it
is no longer allowed back into the wild, or if the alligator was
previously in captivity,” Howard says.
The Brunswick County facility was licensed by the state and
began receiving alligators in 2016. The primary purpose is to be
an education resource, to tell the school groups and the public
about the gators in our midst, and how we can co-exist.
“You’d be amazed how many folks don’t know anything
about the American alligator,” Howard says. “That intimi-dates
people. Learn about them. Educate yourself about them.
All of a sudden you gain an interesting relationship because
you become excited about them. Alligators are a very import-ant
part of the ecosystem of eastern North Carolina, and they
deserve our respect just like any other animal would.”
With a little education, alligators transform from some-thing
to fear to something to appreciate.
“Enjoy them,” Davis says. “But enjoy them from a safe
distance. Give them the respect they deserve and let them
WITH A LITTLE