SOUTHEASTERN NORTH CAROLINA (WECT) - The NC Wildlife Resources Commission announced Monday it is extending the application period deadline to hunt alligators by one month.
Municipalities in Brunswick, Carteret, Columbus, Craven, Hyde, Jones, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico, and Pender counties will have until June 1 to submit an application.
The commission adopted a rule in February to allow limited hunting of American alligators. The season is usually limited to population reduction hunts at the request of the municipalities.
After applying for a population reduction hunt, the municipality would then work with the commission to assess alligator numbers, define areas of public safety concern and identify areas where alligators could be safely hunted.
If the commission approves the application, a limited number of permits would be issued to licensed hunters with a bag limit of one per permit and a season limit of one alligator per permittee.
Lake Waccamaw is one of the towns to submit an application. According to Mayor Daniel Hilburn, leaders decided at a meeting on April 10 to partner with Wildlife Commission biologists.
"You hear a lot people say, 'We don't have an alligator problem' and alligators are primarily not a problem, but they're becoming more and more aware and used to humans and that's when the problem occurs," Hilburn said. "I've been here since 1969 and I've swam in the lake the entire time. You'll hear people say we don't have any more alligators. Well, I disagree."
According to Hilburn, alligators numbers have increased during his time in Lake Waccamaw.
"There's no predators for the alligators and so a reduction as far as the wildlife biologists' study would be a good fit for the town of Lake Waccamaw, not only for the protection of the alligators, but for the protection of people and their pets as well," he said.
Hilburn said he sees this as a safe way to reduce the number of gators.
"Alligators are a healthy part of the environment. They eat turtles. They eat fish. Everybody likes to come look at them," Hilburn said. "They've been here forever. This is not a program that allows for the hunting and eradication to put them back on the endangered species list. This is a program to help control the population of a wild animal that has not been allowed to be hunted or taken since 1970 so they keep populating."
The town is waiting for a response from the Wildlife Commission about a plan to assess alligator numbers in the area.
The current season runs from Sept 1. to Oct. 1.
More information on alligators, including safety tips, can be found on the Commission's Co-exist With Alligators page.
Municipalities seeking additional information can refer to Alligator Management Options for Municipalities.