Staff Report for The Island Eye News
The S.C. Department of Natural Resources is accepting online applications for the 2018 Public Alligator Hunting season and the 2018 Wildlife Management Area (WMA) Alligator Hunting Season at dnr.sc.gov/wildlife/alligator/ index.html.
It is estimated that more than 100,000 alligators live from the Midlands to the coast of South Carolina and the population is not threatened by the regulated removal of a relatively small number of alligators. Last year, hunters took 351 alligators during the public alligator hunting season, with the average size being nearly nine feet in length.
A $10 nonrefundable application fee is required to apply for the Public Lands Hunt and a $15 nonrefundable application fee is charged to apply for the WMA Alligator Hunt. A randomized computer drawing based on a preference point system will determine the selection of hunters.
Applicants can only apply and pay fees online or at the walk-up counter at a DNR Regional Office. No paper applications will be accepted. This year’s season will begin on Sept. 8 and run until Oct. 13. The deadline to apply is 5 p.m. June 15.
If selected, a $100 fee for the permit and one harvest tag is required to be paid online through the application system. Unsuccessful applicants will accumulate preference points for future alligator hunt drawings. Preference points add to the likelihood of being drawn in future years. All hunters will be notified in July of their selection status.
Hunters participating in the Public Alligator Hunting Season may take alligators in public waters and on private land where permission is granted, but alligator hunting is prohibited on Wildlife Management Areas and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wildlife Refuges. In addition, public alligator season permits cannot be used on lands enrolled in the Private Lands Alligator Program.
The WMA Alligator Hunt is a special draw hunt, in which the person selected will be permitted to take up to three assistants and have access to either portions of Bear Island WMA or Santee Coastal WMA for one hunt period. There are four available hunt periods during the WMA alligator hunting season. The cost for the WMA Alligator Hunting Permit, if successfully selected in the computerized drawing, is $500 for residents and $800 for nonresidents. There are two available permits for each hunt period on both Bear Island WMA and Santee Coastal WMA, for a total of four hunters (plus assistants) per week, and 16 total available permits per season.
By law, the fees collected are used to support the Alligator Management Program’s research and management activities, and for conservation of the American Alligator in South Carolina.
Only alligators four feet or greater in length may be taken and the hunter must tag the animal immediately with a harvest tag provided by the SCDNR for any of the alligator hunting programs. This hunting season does not allow the shooting of unsecured alligators, even on private land. All alligators must be secured using approved equipment and brought boatside or onto land before they can be dispatched.
While others may assist the permitted hunter, all participants must possess a valid South Carolina hunting license. All selected hunters and participants in the WMA Alligator Hunts must also possess a valid South Carolina Wildlife Management Area permit.
In addition to the required state hunting license, application, and permit fees, all nonresident alligator hunters are required to pay an added nonresident alligator hunting fee of $200 before going afield. This fee is valid for participation in any of the alligator hunting programs. The nonresident alligator hunting fee is also required for any nonresident alligator hunting assistants 16 years of age or older.
While the hunters selected for the WMA Alligator Hunt can only hunt on the designated WMA during their designated hunt period, the WMA alligator permit does allow the hunter to hunt alligators in the Alligator Management Unit in which the WMA is located. Thus, WMA permit holders for Santee Coastal Reserve can also hunt in the Middle Coastal Unit and the WMA permit holders for Bear Island can also hunt in the Southern Coastal Alligator Management Unit.
The SCDNR will closely monitor these hunts and the harvest and regulations may be modified for future seasons. Please check the SCDNR website at dnr.sc.gov/ wildlife/alligator/index.html for any changes and updates.