A Mount Pleasant campground will have to euthanize an alligator after receiving reports of campers feeding it, causing the gator to associate humans with food.
The Mount Pleasant/Charleston Kampgrounds of America located on U.S. Highway 17 received a report over the weekend of someone feeding an alligator in the campground's 30-acre lake.
The report, in addition to a higher-than-usual number of reported alligator sightings close to the lake's shoreline, prompted the campground to take action, said Bill Stierle, a campground customer service representative.
Typically, alligators removed from private property after being deemed a nuisance are euthanized, according to David Lucas, a S.C. Department of Natural Resources spokesman. This is because it is illegal to relocate alligators in South Carolina, as they may pose a threat to others.
"If you remove it from private property, you're making it a problem for someone else. The gator is probably not going to stay put," Lucas said. "If it's learned to associate humans with food and it's lost it's natural fear of people, it's likely that the gator will be euthanized once it's captured."
"Nobody likes to see a gator get euthanized," Lucas said. "In cases that one has been fed and associates humans with something to eat, that's exactly the case when it's got to be euthanized. It's a public safety thing."
Lucas said that feeding an alligator is something DNR takes seriously.
"It's an incredibly dangerous and stupid thing to do," he said.
Feeding or harassing an alligator in South Carolina is a misdemeanor and results in a $100 to $150 fine or 30 days in prison, or both.
Nancy Ferdon, a camper at KOA, heard reports of other campers fishing in the lake and tossing the caught fish to the alligator.
"They think it's fun to feed the gators, when all they're doing is creating the ultimate death for the gators. I don't think it's right," she said.
Stierle said multiple reports of alligator sightings is unusual.
"We've seen their eyes swimming off in the lake, but they've never been this close to the shoreline," he said.
He said that campers feeding the alligator likely "enticed it to come up closer than they normally do."
According to Stierle, the campground is in the process of removing the alligator, which has been reported to be between around 4 to 6 feet long.
The campground has obtained the necessary DNR permits to capture and remove the animal. An attempted removal will likely happen Tuesday, either by the campground's maintenance staff or a privately contracted alligator removal business, Stierle said.
Stierle said that in the past 18 years, there has only been one incident where an alligator has come out of the water.
Lucas said if an alligator poses a threat to humans, the best thing to do is call 911. Dispatchers will alert local law enforcement and DNR, who will then arrive on scene.