Warm winter prompts Beaufort County alligators to appear early

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Warm winter prompts Beaufort County alligators to appear early

By RACHEL HEATON
rheaton@beaufortgazette.com
Published Tuesday, March 6, 2012   |  486 Words  |  

Alligators are being spotted earlier than normal in the Lowcountry this year.

Joe Maffo, the owner of Critter Management, said he's already had six calls to remove alligators from properties.

Usually those calls don't come until the end of April, he said.

"They hibernate, and they usually are not seen unless the sun is out and it's nice and warm," he said. "This year we've had an extremely warm winter."

He caught his first alligator of the season Monday in the Pinecrest neighborhood of Bluffton. The alligator, which was about six feet long, had reportedly killed a dog and been found on a resident's back deck.

Maffo said he planned to relocate the alligator.

He's also received a call from Michael C. Riley Elementary School. The school saw a gator nearby last week, principal Adrienne Sutton said.

The alligator was in a retaining pond between the elementary school and the early childhood center, she said. The pond is fenced in, and the alligator would have only been able to get out through a drain.

Sutton said the school has had alligators there before.

"We have had them in the summer more than anything," she said.

James Boatright, the part-owner of Tracks Wildlife Control, said they haven't had any calls to remove alligators, but said the company is expecting them soon.

"I've seen them out a lot," he said. "...I think it will be an early year."

The general manager of Hilton Head Plantation, Peter Kristian, said he hasn't had any residents complain about alligators yet. Last summer, a 9-foot-long alligator was stuck in a storm drain in the neighborhood.

But Kristian said alligators are definitely out and about. He's seen them sunning themselves near lagoons in the neighborhood.

Attempts to reach officials at the S.C. Department of Natural Resources were unsuccessful.

Maffo said if you see an alligator, don't approach it. Above all, don't feed it, he said.

"Have respect for these animals," he said. "Please don't approach them. Just enjoy them from a safe distance."

Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.

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