HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — A safety awareness program Thursday night brought together crowds and local officials to learn how to live with alligators.
State Rep. Heather Ammons Crawford and Horry County Councilman Cam Crawford hosted the “Living with Alligators” seminar by bringing together several neighborhoods and local leaders with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources SCDNR and the Horry County Police Department of Environmental Services.
The Alligator Project leader and Alligator Program biologist for SCDNR, Morgan Hart, mentioned that only four people have been killed by alligators in South Carolina since the late 1800s. She said there have also been fewer than 30 attacks since 1915.
One of those cases was a deadly attack in Horry County about a month ago.
SCDNR has not released any updates regarding the circumstances surrounding the incident. News13 asked them for an update, but haven’t received a response.
Crawford said Thursday’s seminar was to educate people how to coexist with alligators and how to deal with problematic ones.
She said the local alligator attack did “kind of trigger some of this,” but also the fact that there are a lot of new people living in Horry County.
“Now we have a lot more people in our area that aren’t from our area and they’re not used to some of the wildlife that we have, “Crawford said. “So, I think it’s very important to educate folks and let them know we do have alligators here, and there’s a way that we can all live together and make sure we are staying away from them so that they will stay away from us.”
Hart said that just because an alligator is in a place does not mean it needs to be removed.
“If its not afraid of you, then it’s an alligator that needs to go,” Hart said.
She said nuisance alligators are ones that display abnormal behaviors.
“Sitting in a place where there are lots of people around and really not moving away, approaching people, acting as if its been fed or not being afraid of people would be abnormal,” she said.
She said most alligators cause problems after being fed by people — therefore associating them with food.
“If you don’t take anything else away from this presentation never feed alligators,” she said.
Feeding them can have serious consequences.
“Not only is it illegal and it can result in heavy fines and jail time, but it creates an animal that can do damage to people,” she said.
Fines start around $400 and can go to a little over $1,000. Unintentionally feeding an alligator can also cause risks for humans.
“Sometimes people will call and say ‘I think somebody is feeding the alligator in my neighborhood when I go out to feed the turtles the alligators come right over,'” Hart said.
She said that can also be unintentional.
Nuisance tags and permits are required to remove an alligator. It is generally up to an individual to remove a nuisance alligator by hiring a company to do it.
Hart said alligators usually have to be four feet long to be considered a nuisance because alligators smaller than that are not dangerous to people unless someone tries to pick them up.
She said always assume an alligator is in a body of water. Stay a minimum of six feet from the edge, especially when walking pets.
Hart said any body of water in South Carolina below the fall line could have an alligator in it. She said alligators will travel miles across land to get to water, so it does not matter if the water is not connected to a big river.
“Always assume an alligator is present because they can show up out of nowhere,” she said.
The following numbers are resources for dealing with problematic alligators:
- After hours or for emergencies: 1-800-922-5431
- Horry County nuisance number: 843-546-6062
- Part of an HOA? Call them first.