BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WECT) - With the warm weather, more people are heading to the water. Again this year, it looks like there is no shortage of alligators, or people who still feed them - but it is against the law to feed the reptiles, and also very dangerous.
We took a trip recently, to see how the population is looking this year, now that the gators have emerged from hibernation.
A day at work means a day on the water for Captain Charles Robbins. Robbins owns and operates Cape Fear River Adventures and offers several different eco-tours in our coastal waters, including taking people to see alligators up close.
After almost being eradicated in the early 20th century, alligators have made a comeback in North Carolina. Alligators prefer fresh water streams and canals, but they are also plentiful in the brackish waters of the coastal area, and have even been seen swimming in the Atlantic Ocean.
"Being a reptile, they are cold blooded animals, meaning as soon as the sun comes out and heats up the mud, they are coming out," said Robbins. "June and July are the mating months for alligators, they will lay eggs and they will hatch in July, and have the little pups, so they are probably in a little hurry this year, since they are a little late coming out."
Robbins thinks interest in alligators is high because of several reality television shows, where alligator hunting is legal. Individual states, including South Carolina, are allowed to manage and control their gator populations, but in North Carolina, hunting or killing an alligator is illegal and only state wildlife officials can remove problem gators.
Wilmington's Greenfield Lake has an ample supply of alligators, and there are signs everywhere about the reptiles and the dangers of feeding them.
"It is very dangerous, an alligator can move very quickly, and in a straight line, can jump as much as thirty feet" said Captain Robbins. "So you are not really safe if you are that close to them and try to feed them, because they will take whatever they need and you have to respect their space" Captain Robbins told us.
In addition to the gator trips, Captain Robbins also does other water tours, including trips up to the Black River in Pender County.
And even though they are plentiful in our area, the best way to observe alligators is by going with an expert, and a visit to see the alligators at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher.
On April 30, Wilmington's Halyburton Park will be the site of a workshop to educate people about alligators and their behavior. Pre-register for the event by calling (910) 341-0075.