On Friday, June 24th, 2022, another person was killed by an alligator in an increasingly long string of attacks in South Carolina. South Carolina is home to over five million people, many of whom live in close proximity to some of nature’s oldest killers. American alligators are one of two species of alligator, the other being the rare and elusive Chinese alligator. They’re one of the deadliest creatures in South Carolina, and indeed, in North America.
When humans and alligators collide, the results aren’t generally pretty. Let’s dive into more details on this incident and why attacks in South Carolina are on the rise.
South Carolina Alligator Attack: June 2022
A person, reportedly an adult male, was killed by an alligator on Friday, June 24th, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The alligator evidently left the retention pond it had been living in, which borders on the Myrtle Beach Yacht Club properties, and killed an unidentified man. The alligator then dragged the body into the water, where authorities later recovered the remains. At this time, it is unclear if the man died on land or in the water, and police have not released any details.
In addition to police, members of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources responded to the call. They made the decision to euthanize and remove the alligator. The alligator’s size is reportedly 11 feet in length, but there do not appear to be any additional victims. The circumstances of the fatality have not yet been released to the public, though there had been reports of large alligators in the vicinity in recent months.
The tweet above was sent in jest earlier this month, but it clearly shows three very large alligators in the area where this week’s attack took place.
Are Alligators a Problem in South Carolina?
Alligators are the only crocodilian native to South Carolina. There are an estimated 100,000 alligators living in the state, almost all of which occur in lowland wetlands, swamps, and ponds. According to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, there have been three confirmed fatal attacks on humans in the state’s history. Friday’s attack brings that number up to four. The first recorded attack occurred in 2016, followed by fatalities in 2018 and 2020.
The first fatal alligator attack occurred in 2016 in Charleston. The victim was a 90-year-old woman living in an assisted living facility who strayed to close to a local lagoon. In 2018, a large alligator attacked a 45-year-old school teacher living on Hilton Head Island just steps from her front door while she walked her dog. In both cases, authorities were too late to save the victims.
Previous to the June 2022 attack, the last alligator fatality occurred in 2020 on Kiawah Island. According to police reports, the victim was attempting to touch the alligator, when it attacked and drug her underwater. Despite these attacks, fatal alligator attacks on humans are actually very rare. Alligators would rather hunt birds, raccoons, deer, snakes, frogs, fish, and crustaceans.
Are Alligators Common in South Carolina?
Alligators do not live in all parts of South Carolina. They live as far north as North Carolina, and as far south as the Florida Everglades. They also live as far west as Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. Unlike the invasive Burmese python in the Everglades, alligators are native to the southeastern United States. In fact, they’ve been around for more than a million years. They’ve lived in coastal wetlands for far longer than humans have been around.
Alligators in South Carolina number around 100,000, and are active year-round. They breed in late spring and summer, when the temperature rises. During breeding and nesting season, alligators are more likely to come into contact with humans, as they spend more time out of the water. If you live in coastal South Carolina, alligators are a fact of life, albeit a deadly fact of life.
Why are Alligator Attacks on the Rise in South Carolina?
According to biologists with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, there are two reasons for the increasing frequency of fatal alligator attacks in South Carolina. The first reason is that alligator populations are experiencing a constant, steady increase. This is because, although American alligators were hunted nearly to extinction in the first half of the twentieth century, they are now much more protected. In fact, the only legal way to kill an alligator in South Carolina is to have it labeled a nuisance alligator, or, to draw a coveted alligator hunting permit.
The second reason that alligator attacks are on the rise in South Carolina has to do with increasing human population. As human populations grow, human settlements increasingly encroach on alligator habitat. Like the deadly version of urban deer, alligators in South Carolina increasingly live in, or on the fringes of, human society. This is especially true of coastal areas, which have long been hotspots for both human, and alligator, real estate.
How to Stay Safe Around Alligators in South Carolina
If you live in South Carolina, or even if you’re just visiting, it’s important to understand how to stay safe around alligators. Alligators may look fascinating, and some even find them cute, but they’re still remorseless predators. That’s not to say that an alligator will outright attack you the moment it lays eyes on you. So, first and foremost when it comes to alligator safety, is maintaining respect for one of nature’s most incredible creatures.
This respect means that, if you’re exploring a wetland, swamp, or pond, you should always stay at least ten feet from the water. It’s extremely rare for alligators to hunt on land, they would rather ambush their prey from the cover of murky water. Especially important when in alligator country is keeping your dog leashed, and far from the water. Alligators attack dogs far more often than they attack humans. This is because the dog, given it’s size, fits the alligator’s prey image more closely than most humans.
Further, you should never, under any circumstances, feed or attempt to touch an alligator. Feeding alligators is a dangerous, and foolish, pursuit, that puts not just yourself, but others, in danger. Also, never approach an alligator to take photos, or even to get a closer look.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Jim Schwabel/Shutterstock.com
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