February 03, 2020
Alligator Awareness Study
By: Maryanne Connelly, Councilmember
Wildlife is a crucial element and asset to the Kiawah Island experience. To ensure both the public and wildlife are protected, a periodic review of best practices for co-existing with wildlife, particularly alligators, is necessary. Last fall, the Town created an alligator audit committee to review all aspects of Kiawah’s alligator program. The committee included members from the Community Association, the Golf Resort, Town Biologists, and an alligator research specialist from Clemson University. The committee developed additional recommendations to increase the effectiveness of the island’s current alligator program.
1) Gate passes should bring more attention to the island’s alligator population and highlight how to safely observe alligators, including what behavior to avoid to minimize encounters. Appropriate agency phone numbers should be listed to report issues and concerns.
2) The Town needs to continue to reinforce alligator awareness and safety messaging in publications and communication channels, as well as expand the information provided on the Town website.
3) There should be increased education and training for handling alligator issues for KICA security personnel and deputies. Possibly even the creation of an educational training video demonstrating various alligator safety scenarios.
4) The Town should continue to work with the Kiawah Resort and Kiawah Club golf operations to post warnings to players against approaching alligators while on the courses. The Nature Center should continue its educational programs regarding wildlife safety.
5) The Town should require rental properties to notify all renters of alligator safety information (implemented 2020). The Town should also encourage the placement of small placards on rental property decks and porch railings to highlight appropriate behavior concerning alligators. The signs should contain visual instruction for the benefit of non-English speaking guests. The Town will continue to encourage property owners to inform their guests to respect the uncertainty of alligator behavior.
6) All community entities should audit and maintain safety signs along bike/pedestrian paths since they are critical to public safety. New signs should be added as necessary. Other optional suggestions included the addition of barrier fences and observation decks in certain locations to add an element of security while providing visitors an opportunity to observe alligators safely. Also, some areas might benefit from the installation of basking platforms or islands.
Finally, the committee reviewed Kiawah’s alligator population numbers and current management strategies. The alligator population on Kiawah has remained stable over the last ten years. Since alligators self-regulate their population, wildlife professionals discourage the practice of culling. Large alligators, which are a concern to some, are vital to the population as they provide a sense of order and control. Their removal is disruptive and can cause an increase in alligator issues. The Town’s current policy of removing only nuisance alligators based on behavioral characteristics, not size, should be continued.
If you have questions about the study, please contact Jim Jordan at firstname.lastname@example.org