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Useful tips and interesting facts

Useful tips and interesting facts


There are believed to be a few thousand alligators on the North Carolina coast, with higher densities in the southern part of the state.

When you live in alligator country, experts say there are a couple of rules you should follow.

First, if you are near a body of freshwater, whether it is a man-made retention pond, river or lake, assume it is home to alligators and act accordingly.

Second, if you see an alligator lounging on the shore or just floating around, leave it alone. More often than not, an alligator will wander off on its own, either in search of food or a mate. And our toothy neighbors don’t take humans into consideration either.

Here are some other tips from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) on coexisting with alligators:

  • Don’t feed them. The main reason bad interactions between humans and alligators occur is because people intentionally feed the reptiles, allowing them to associate people with food and lose their fear of being around humans.
  • Protect pets from bodies of water where alligators have been seen. While fish, snakes, turtles and waterfowl are their favorite foods, they have been known to attack small mammals such as muskrats and dogs.
  • Like many animals, alligators are most active between dusk and dawn, which is also when they primarily feed. Be especially careful at night near bodies of water that alligators are known to frequent.
  • Never approach an alligator, no matter how big it is. Observe them from a safe distance, especially if they are adults.

Here are some facts about North Carolina’s top natural predator:

  • North Carolina represents the northernmost limit of the alligator’s range. Population density increases as one moves south from Virginia to South Carolina, roughly following rising temperatures.
  • There are believed to be a few thousand alligators in the Tar Heel State, ranging up and down the North Carolina coast and extending into the coastal plain to about Interstate 95 in the southern parts of the state. The WRC is conducting a more specific population study.
  • Several years ago, North Carolina considered establishing a limited alligator hunting season, which would allow municipalities with nuisance alligators or too many animals the option to control their numbers. But few towns took up the offer, fearing the public relations consequences of hunting an animal that has federal and state protections, and the idea has since been shelved.
  • While alligators in states further south, such as Louisiana and Florida, are active and growing for most of the year, North Carolina alligators enter a state of near-hibernation during the coldest winter months. That means Tar Heel alligators take longer to grow and mature than their southern neighbors.
  • In North Carolina, male alligators, which can be very territorial, can reach 13 feet (4 metres) long and weigh up to 500 pounds (227 kg) or more. Females are generally less than 9 feet (2.70 metres) long and weigh up to 200 pounds (90 kg).
  • Research shows that both sexes tend to be capable of reproducing at about 6 feet in length, and in North Carolina it is believed that males take between 14 and 16 years to reach sexual maturity, while females require between 18 and 19 years.
  • Alligators can live for more than four decades in the wild. Nests can contain up to 45 eggs and females protect their young for up to two years.
  • Orton Pond, a 500-acre lake in Brunswick County about halfway between Leland and Southport, is believed to have the highest density of alligators in North Carolina.
  • If you know of someone intentionally feeding or harassing an alligator, call the WRC Law Enforcement Hotline at (800) 662-7137. For information on the best ways to make your local pond or waterway less attractive to alligators, call (866) 318-2401.

Reporter Gareth McGrath can be reached at [email protected] or @GarethMcGrathSN on X/Twitter. This story was produced with financial support from the Green South Foundation and the Prentice Foundation. USA TODAY Network maintains full editorial control of the work.