Kiawah Island Alligator Behavior and Safety Research Project
The Kiawah Conservancy, in partnership with TOKI, KICA, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), and Clemson University began an alligator study in 2015, focusing primarily on alligator health and physiology. The Clemson study continued during 2016-2017 and 39 alligators have been captured to date. This new TOKI/KICA study will take advantage of these capture efforts to obtain additional information on alligators.
All captured alligators are fitted with visible, numbered tags so that they can be easily identified in the field by biologists, residents, and visitors. Two visual tags (blue for males, yellow for females) are placed on each alligator, one behind the head and one on the tail. Capture efforts focus on areas where nuisance alligators are the most prevalent, typically near popular fishing and crabbing locations. Several recent studies have suggested that capturing and handling alligators increases their fear of people, thereby, reducing human/alligator conflicts. Observations of tagged animals will allow biologists to document changes in alligator behavior after capture. In addition to visual tags, a subset of 12 alligators were fitted with VHF transmitters in 2016. In addition, 5 alligators were fitted with GPS tags in 2017. Location data will help biologists begin to understand movement patterns, home range size, and post-capture response of alligators on the island.