Hurricane Florence may have saved NC alligators from hunters’ guns, state says

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Hurricane Florence could help explain why hunters bagged only one gator during North Carolina’s first alligator hunting season in 45 years, a spokesperson for the state told The Charlotte Observer.

A hunter “harvested” a gator on Sunday in Swan Quarter, Fairley Mahlum, spokesperson for the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, told the Observer in an email.

Hunters were allowed to hunt gators from Sept. 1 until Monday in Swan Quarter, Fairfield and Engelhard, towns in Hyde County on the coast. Hyde County officials had asked for “a targeted hunt” to cut the alligator population in areas “with frequent alligator conflict,” the NC Wildlife Resources Commission said in a news release in July.

Twenty of the estimated 800 hunters who applied for permits were selected through “a random, computerized drawing,” WRAL reported.

Licenses cost $250 for in-state hunters and $500 for those from outside North Carolina, WTVD reported. Each hunter was limited to one gator, the (Raleigh) News and Observer reported.

A “multitude of factors” might explain why hunters found so few gators, Mahlum’s email to the Observer said, “including a behavioral response to Hurricane Florence.”

The absence of alligators surprised such hunters as Jeffrey Raub, WNCN reported.

“It looks like some great alligator habitat,” Raub said, according to the station. “The problem is there aren’t any alligators.”

The commission intends to survey the 20 hunters “to try and understand some of the challenges they experienced during the season,” Mahlum said in the email.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067; @jmarusak