Last week, Kiawah experienced a tragedy when a woman lost her life after approaching a mature alligator. Concerned community members immediately reached out to ask how we make sure this does not happen again. The answer lies in sharing information about alligator behavior and our island’s alligator management practices, and engaging the participation of every community member and entity to foster a safe environment.
Our community was intentionally developed to integrate closely with the island’s natural abundance. Here we coexist with our island’s wildlife, including alligators. This proximity to alligators requires vigilant awareness, respect and caution.
The most effective actions to prevent an alligator encounter include:
DO NOT APPROACH AN ALLIGATOR. MAKE SURE YOUR FAMILY AND GUESTS ARE INFORMED.
Alligators are naturally fearful of humans, and will not likely approach. Most commonly, alligators are approached by humans because of their novelty – to see them closer or to take a picture. This is incredibly dangerous. Even more risky behaviors, that are also illegal, include feeding, baiting, taunting or harassing an alligator. These crimes are punishable by fines or jail time, and if witnessed, should be reported to KICA Security at 843-768-5566. Our community must adopt an attitude of respect toward alligators, including discouraging and reporting dangerous human behavior.
REPORT CONCERNING ALLIGATORS.
If you are concerned that an alligator has lost its fear of humans, report it immediately. (Call the town at 843-768-9166 during business hours, or KICA security after-hours at 843-768-5566.) An island biologist with alligator behavior expertise will evaluate the alligator. If the alligator approaches and shows no fear of people, it will be euthanized. The safety of our community members is the highest priority.
Along with individual actions, the alligator population is carefully managed in a collaborative effort by the community association and the town. After last week’s tragedy, concerned community members have questioned if there are too many alligators and have shared ideas like eliminating some or all of our alligators.
In 2019, the town formed a committee of community members and alligator experts to audit Kiawah’s alligator management practices. In February 2020, the committee recommended increased alligator safety and educational communications, but had no changes to the island’s management protocol. The committee confirmed that Kiawah’s alligator population is healthy and self-regulates, and any culling could disturb this balance and increase alligator issues.
While KICA and rental agents already actively share information about alligators with guests and visitors, all community members must do their part to ensure their own guests and family members are acting safely. Community members are also asked to continue to report concerning human or alligator behaviors. In the coming months we will provide you with more information and resources to support safe living on our island.