COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Attention hunters! The time is coming to put your applications in for the 2018 alligator hunting season.
May 1 marks the beginning of acceptance of applications where hunters can apply to be one of 1,000 to be selected in one of four zones to participate in the public alligator hunting season. The deadline for applications is June 15. The season takes place between September 8 and October 13.
The selection process works as a pseudo-lottery utilizing a random draw in addition to a preference point system. If selected, a hunter purchases one $100 tag to use in the dispatching of a secured alligator. Hunters may work in a party of unselected hunters as long as one hunter has an unused tag for the killed alligator. Nonresidents of SC are required to pay a $200 nonresident field before participating.
If not selected, applicants accrue preference points that increase the likelihood of their selection in future years. In fact, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources allows hunters to directly apply for preference points without being considered for selection.
Alligators in South Carolina, from the Midlands to the coast, are estimated to exceed 100,000 and hunting is not expected to pose any threat to their population. In 2017, hunters only reeled in 351 specimens averaging almost nine feet long.
According to Jay Butfiloski, Furbearer and Alligator Program Coordinator, the reinstatement of alligator hunting season has helped curb alligators encroaching on human territory while also reinstalling a natural wariness among the alligators. While people used to be able to drive right up to alligators and alligators would come right up to boats, alligators have become more cautious, shying away from human interaction.
Butfiloski estimates that there are roughly 5,000 applicants every year from 39 states.
Only alligators that are four feet long or longer may be taken and the animal must be tagged immediately. Alligators also are not allowed to be shot while unsecured. This means that a hunter must have successful control over the alligator with approved equipment before it can be shot, to prevent the animal escaping and dying in the wild, even on private property.
SCDNR also has a Wildlife Management Area alligator hunting season, taking part in specific areas of Bear Island and Santee Coastal WMAs. Those hunting programs have separate requirements that can be found at SCDNR's website.
Fees that are collected are used to support the Alligator Management Program's research and management activities and for the conservation of the American Alligator in South Carolina.