You are not the only one wanting to live in this wonderful wildlife preserve; there are an estimated 80-100 alligators living within the boundaries of Dunes West. Alligators will not be removed for relocation because of the proximity to the Francis Marion Forest across the river; removed alligators will most likely be replaced by another claiming this vacant territory. The federal protection for alligators does allow state-approved management and control programs. Alligators can be legally taken only by individuals with proper licenses and permits. Dunes West owns hundreds of acres of marsh and open area, some under federal jurisdiction, all of it under SC regulations, and Dunes West originated with the declaration to keep open areas as wildlife preserves. There are strict fines for feeding or molesting alligators and other wildlife (geese and deer, for example). Gators who have been fed will no longer shy from humans and then become dangerous, so please DO NOT FEED.
To put the risk of alligator attack in context, you are more likely to get struck by lightning or win the lottery than to be seriously injured by a gator. In SC only 11 alligator bites have been recorded since 1948, none resulted in fatalities.
Most alligators prefer the marshes of the Wando River, Toomer Creek, and Wagner Creek moving with the tidal influence and when it warms the Wando River. Alligators are ectothermic -- they rely on external sources of heat to regulate their body temperature so they will bask in the sun and move to areas with warmer or cooler air /water temperatures. They are most active at between 82° to 92° F. They stop feeding when the temperature drops below 70° F and they become dormant below 55° F. Alligators lie dormant throughout most of the winter season where they are found in burrows constructed adjacent to an alligator hole or open water, but sometimes are out during spells of warm weather. In Dunes West, they tend to move into the shallow retention ponds in the spring because the water is warmer than the river.
Do not allow your dogs or children to swim in waters inhabited by alligators. To an alligator, a splash potentially means a food source is in the water. Or, a protective female may believe her young or eggs are threatened and take defensive action. Avoid swimming in areas that are known habitats for large gators and never swim alone.
No fishing near the alligators. Be cautious when fishing in waters with alligators, as some will not hesitate to grab a hooked fish or eat the fish on a stringer. Avoid heavy vegetation in and near the water’s edge. Do not clean fish in the water or leave your scraps or bait on the ground.
Don't feed alligators. Fines and jail for this action. Do not feed ducks, turtles or any other animals inhabiting waters with alligators. This food source attracts the alligators as well and trains them to associate humans with foods.
Keep your distance. Alligators are extremely powerful and can move with a startling burst of speed for short distances. 60 feet is a safe distance. If the alligator hisses or lunges at you, you are too close.
Keep your pets and children away from alligators. Large alligators do not recognize the difference between domestic pets and wild food sources. Hunting instincts take over when hungry, and alligators might attempt to feed on your house pet if given the opportunity. Keep your dogs leashed.
Do not attempt to move alligators out of the road. Alligators move the most in spring and summer when breeding. If you see an alligator on the move, leave it alone and let it pass.
Never disturb nests or small alligators. Baby alligators are docile, but don’t be lured into touching them as they should never be captured as female alligators protect their young and may become aggressive.
Do not attempt to keep alligators as pets. Although they start out cute, they grow into the large predators. Keeping a baby alligator as a pet is a foolish idea not to mention illegal in some states.
Do not corner alligators. If skiing, canoeing, kayaking, or even taking photographs, give them space. Do not panic if an alligator slips off the bank into the water. It is highly unlikely that it is coming to attack you; it is simply trying to move to another more safe location.
It is illegal to harass or throw things at alligators. Injuring or killing alligators is punishable by law with fines and jail. Respect them as wild animals and you can enjoy them and all that Dunes West has to offer together.