A recent video shot by a viewer of an Augusta television station shows a man carrying an alligator and placing it in the back of a pickup. His capture of the animal attracted a small crowd of onlookers in a neighborhood in the Jackson area of Aiken County.
The video concerns Jackson Mayor Todd Etheredge, who said people who find alligators in residential areas and want them removed shouldn't handle the situation themselves.
“If you have an alligator in your yard and feel threatened, you should contact the proper authorities and let professionals take care of it,” he said. “People see these shows like 'Swamp People' and think, 'Oh, I can do that.' But the stars of those shows are around alligators every day, and they know they are quick and can be aggressive. They're not animals that you should play with, and I would have felt really bad if someone in that video had gotten hurt.”
According to Etheredge, alligators aren't spotted inside Jackson's town limits often, but the large reptiles do wander into residential areas there occasionally.
“It happens every few years, usually in the lower areas of town where it is swampy and wet,” he said. “It also happens more often during the breeding season (which begins in the spring) because when alligators are looking for mates, they do roam.”
Etheredge advised Jackson residents to call law enforcement officials if there are alligators in their communities and they feel threatened.
Bobby Arthurs, chief enforcement officer for Aiken County Animal Control, said alligators usually are found in Aiken County around creeks and rivers, and he also has heard reports about the large reptiles being seen in Langley Pond Park. Alligators also live in Brick Pond Park in North Augusta.
“Alligators can't be domesticated, and they can be very dangerous,” Arthurs said. “If they are coming onto your property, you need to stay away from them and keep your small pets away from them. They can exert thousands of pounds of pressure (2,125 pounds per square inch) if they bite you.”
Arthurs recommended calling the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources at 800-922-5431 if you want to get rid of an alligator.
“They are responsible for wild animals, and they are most definitely responsible for gators,” he said. “At Animal Control, we don't have the expertise to handle them, but we have responded to calls and provided assistance to keep people away from an alligator until a Department of National Resources representative arrived.”
But the Department of National Resources doesn't take action in every situation involving an unwanted alligator.
“It depends on the circumstances,” said Jay Butfiloski, furbearer and alligator program coordinator for the Department of Natural Resources. “We have two categories, emergency alligators and nuisance alligators.”
An emergency alligator is in a place where it won't be able to get back to water soon, Butfiloski explained. It might be in a shopping center parking lot, where it's attracting a big crowd and causes a disturbance. Sometimes one of the large reptiles wanders onto a highway and creates a traffic hazard.
“In those cases, we actually will respond or try to contact one of our alligator control agents to go and remove the alligator,” Butfiloski said.
Butfiloski described a nuisance alligator as an animal that is unwanted but doesn't pose any significant threat. An example of such an alligator is one that has wandered into a yard located near a body of water or is basking in the sun in a residential area near a pond.
Those situations “are not emergencies,” he said, “so we probably wouldn't send someone out.”
In such cases, the Department of Natural Resources will issue the concerned person a permit and a tag that would allow for the removal of the alligator.
“You cannot (legally) possess or attempt to capture an alligator without a permit and a tag from us,” Butfiloski said.
When the Department of Natural Resources deals with an unwanted alligator or issues a permit and tag to someone to handle the situation, the goal is to kill the alligator, Butfiloski said.
“We are out of the business of moving alligators because they tend to come back to where they were and, in many cases, they can become a nuisance for someone else,” he said. “Typically, you want to shoot an alligator directly behind its head to kill it. You don't have to use a big gun. The 'Swamp People' guys use .22 rifles.”