Editorial: Alligator Along New Island Greenway

By / Editorials / Wednesday, 17 April 2019 00:49

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

The Town of Carolina Beach has a new 1.2 mile long Island Greenway (See report on page 1-A...) and recently people have expressed concern about a large alligator seen sunning itself at a drainage pond along the path.

While it may be a frightening sight for some people, it's actually perfectly normal for alligators to populate such areas, especially in the woods near a body of water.

In Carolina Beach and Kure Beach, we have a lot of wildlife on land and in the water. Not just alligators. There are sharks in the ocean, coyotes in the Carolina Beach State Park, snakes in the woods, creeks and around residential homes. At certain times of the year you might get stung by a jelly fish, wander into a hornets nest, or even get pinched by a crab in the water. Granted, not all are equally severe experiences, but it's worth mentioning to remind people that when you see an alligator in Myrtle Grove sound swimming around someone's boat dock, there's nothing you can do about it other than be cautious and take measures to keep yourself and your family  (including pets) safe by avoiding close encounters. Alligators typically don't want to have anything to do with humans.

Many people that visit the Carolina Beach State Park never know that alligators are in fact swimming along the river bank and walking on to land into the woods.

It's their natural habitat. We're privileged enough to enjoy these natural areas, but should also be cautious with a mind set focused on being aware of our surroundings.

Some years ago I walked up on an alligator at the Carolina Beach Lake sunning himself on the bank. I've seen them in drainage ditches west of Lake Park Blvd in residential areas and in the marina and the waterway. I once watched a video of a gator with a dog in it's mouth swimming around a marina in Carolina Beach. I've photographed them on the beach at Freeman Park.  One time I photographed a small 4' gator sneaking up on me while I was photographing a storm over the Cape Fear River on the banks of Carolina Beach State Park.

We should keep an eye out for them and respect them. Keep our distance. Don't let kids swim in the waterway. Keep an eye out when dipping in the surf. Be mindful when walking your dog near water on this Island. Don't feed them. Don't approach them. This guy was quietly coming up behind me and I noticed him. I kept my distance until I got ticked off and just started walking towards him. I know, contrary to this text, but trust me, had he been any larger I would have run away screaming. I love a great photo, but I'm not fond of getting into a fight I can't win. Be aware of the habitat in which you chose to recreate.

For areas along the waterway, don't leave pets unattended near the water. Don't let small children run around the waters edge. Certainly don't swim in it (Quality more than the Alligators). You'll be one of millions of people that have never been injured by an Alligator in Carolina Beach.

In short, the Town of Carolina Beach has very limited options and absolutely no authority to remove American alligators from their natural habitat. They occur naturally in North Carolina, inhabiting bay lakes, rivers, creeks, marshes, swamps and ponds, with local populations distributed in patches along the entire coast. Occasionally, an alligator in a place of business or on a highway is moved by NC Wildlife Resource Commission.

As for the alligator seen basking in the sun along the Island Greenway, that property is owned by the U.S. Army. It's Federal property. Perhaps they can take action, or permit the Town to hire a wildlife expert to relocate it, but that's a request for the Town to make to the U.S. Army.

New Hanover County is experiencing increased development. A couple of years ago there was a bear running up Canal Drive in Carolina Beach. It's a safe assumption that the bear use to live on land off River Road that has now been clear cut to make way for a couple thousand new homes.

It's not a popular idea, but alligators can honestly say, "Hey! We were here first!"

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