Approximately 100,000 alligators live in the state of South Carolina, from the Midlands to Georgetown County. Alligator populations reached their lowest levels in the early 1960's due to several factors, but conservation efforts by state and federal governments under the endangered species act helped the population increase.
South Carolina's Public Alligator Harvest Program allows residents and non-residents to hunt the reptile from the second Saturday in September through the second Saturday in October. "This year our state is divided into four management units. Each unit has 300, so this year we issued 1,200 harvest tags," the Department of Natural Resources Game Warden, Cary Robinson, said.
People are chosen through a random computer drawing. "That way nobody can put too much money in and try to get more than the other person who can only afford one. The computer drawing is also based on preference points, so, say this year a gentleman applies or a lady applies and they don't get accepted, then they can accumulate one preference point every year that they apply, that they don't get picked they accumulate another preference point," Robinson added.
Anytime a permit holder is drawn or someone gets a permit, that person has to remain with that permit and have the harvest tag in the boat at all times. "So I can't go loan it to a friend of mine and let him borrow my permit and harvest tag and then take his buddies, that would be against the law," Robinson said.
There are several strict rules hunters must abide by. "When they go out to do it, they can't shoot one that's free swimming or one that's swimming around, free roaming, they have to actually secure it, bring it to the boat or to land and then dispatch it. They can't use rifles. They can only use handguns and some people use knives," he added.
Each person that participates in the hunt is required to have a South Carolina hunting license. Non-residents are required to purchase the South Carolina hunting license and pay a $200 non-resident fee.
Should one catch a gator, some people are allowed to sell the hides but must do so according to the law.