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Want to hunt alligators in South Carolina? You have 3 days to apply

Brunswick County sheriff’s deputies watch as an alligator measuring over 12 feet ambles off N.C. 133 near Belville, after an hour-long “squat off” with law enforcement and wildlife officials in 1994.
Brunswick County sheriff’s deputies watch as an alligator measuring over 12 feet ambles off N.C. 133 near Belville, after an hour-long “squat off” with law enforcement and wildlife officials in 1994. AP

South Carolina’s alligator hunting season is still months away, but you have only three days to apply for a permit to hunt the crocs.

The deadline to apply online for this year’s public alligator hunting season and the Wildlife Management Area alligator hunting season is 11:59 p.m. Thursday. Applications are available at www.dnr.sc.gov/wildlife/alligator/index.html.

The American alligator – Alligator mississippiensis is the only crocodilian native to South Carolina, according to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources..

Though once listed as a federally endangered species, populations have rebounded and the alligator’s status has been upgraded to threatened due to its similarity of appearance to the threatened American crocodile, the department says on its alligator website page

The state’s alligator populations have done so well that the Department of Natural Resources started a hunting season in 2008.

American alligators can live to be 60 or older and grow to at least 13 feet in length.

This 8-foot alligator was seen roaming Bluffton's Pinecrest neighborhood for at least a year, but things came to a head Saturday night when the alligator was found in the middle of the street and residents could not pass by. As the Beaufort County

North Carolina wildlife officials are talking about the possibility of recreational alligator hunting in the state for the first time since 1973, the Observer reported on May 30.

Allen Boynton, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s wildlife diversity program coordinator, told the Jacksonville Daily News that an Alligator Task Force is seeking public input on what residents think of the idea of reviving a regional alligator hunting season. Population control is the motivating factor, officials said.

“There’s a possibility of hunting, at least in the southeast corner of the state, in some form or fashion,” Boynton told the Daily News. “What we would recommend  is that we start where there’s the most alligators and the most alligator habitat  Start it slow and go from there.”

In South Carolina, a $10 non-refundable application fee is required to apply for the public lands hunt, and a $15 non-refundable application fee is charged to apply for the WMA alligator hunt.

A randomized computer drawing based on a preference point system determines which hunters are selected. Applicants can apply and pay fees only online or at one of the walk-up counters at an S.C. Department of Natural Resources Regional Office in Clemson, Florence, Columbia and Charleston.

This year’s season begins at noon Sept. 9 and lasts until noon Oct. 14.

A thousand permits are available for the public lands alligator hunt. The coastal plain is divided into four alligator management units with 250 permits allocated for each unit.

Applicants can select the option to be considered for any number or all of the units, but the issued permit will allow them to hunt in only one unit per season.

If selected, the hunter must pay $100 for the permit, and one harvest tag is required to be paid online through the same online alligator hunting application system. All selected hunters and assistants must have a hunting license, and, if a non-resident, must pay the non-resident alligator hunting fee.

Unsuccessful applicants will accumulate preference points for future alligator hunt drawings, according to the Department of Natural Resources. Preference points add to the likelihood of being drawn in future years, officials said. All hunters will be notified via email beginning in mid-July of their selection status.

The wildlife management area alligator hunt is a special draw hunt, in which the person selected can take up to three assistants and have access to either portions of the Bear Island or Santee Coastal Reserve wildlife management areas for one hunt period – noon Monday to noon Saturday.

Four hunt periods are available during the Wildlife Management Area alligator hunting season. Permits cost $500 for residents and $800 for nonresidents.

Two permits are available for each hunt period on both the Bear Island and Santee Coastal Reserve areas, for a total of four hunters, plus assistants per week, and 16 total available permits per season. All WMA hunters and assistants must have a hunting license, WMA permit, and if a non-resident, pay the non-resident alligator hunting fee.

A second WMA tag is available for an alligator from 4 to 7 feet in length for $75.

All of the collected fees support the Alligator Management Program’s research and management, and conservation of the American alligator in South Carolina.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak

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