There are some changes in store for North Carolina sportsmen. The state is altering a number of deer hunting regulations and bear zones, and adding an alligator hunting season.
The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission voted to add a new alligator hunting season this year. The season will run from Sept. 1-Oct. 1 and will be on a permit-only basis. This is the first time in 45 years that legal hunting of alligators will be allowed in the state.
American alligators lost their endangered species status in 1987, but alligator hunting has been banned in North Carolina since Congress passed the Endangered Species Act in 1973.
As the alligator population has rebounded, alligator-human conflicts have increased. Wildlife officials receive more than 100 calls a year concerning nuisance alligators, primarily in the southeastern part of the state.
WRC Wildlife Diversity Program Coordinator Allen Boynton, who took the lead in developing the Alligator Management Plan, said that the program focuses on alligator conservation and sustainability.
"The plan is an ambitious plan, which will improve our management of alligators in the state," Boynton said. "According to the plan that's adopted, the commission will not be involved in any hunts of alligators where we don't have scientific data that shows that the population is stable or growing," Boynton declared.
North Carolina Wildlife Management Biologist, John Henry Harrelson, indicated the intention for a gator hunting season is not for hunters to harvest a large number of alligators. They're shooting for sustainability.
"Alligators are something that are going to be here for the foreseeable future, they're not going anywhere," Harrelson said. "So this plan is going to give us the opportunity to conduct research and get a better sense of what the population is."
The WRC voted to restructure deer hunting zones, alter either-sex days in the western third of the state, set a two-buck limit in the eastern half of the state, and add a fifth deer management region. They also lowered the season limit on antlered deer from four to two in the three eastern zones to match regulations in the western half of the state.
The statewide limit on antlerless deer would be four per season, with bonus tags allowed only during Urban Archery seasons. They also moved some season dates around.
In addition to those moves, bear hunters need to be aware that they split up the Coastal Bear Management Unit into five hunting zones with different season placements and lengths.
The North Carolina Sportsmen Facebook page saw mixed reactions. Many hunters expressed their dissatisfaction, particularly with the deer season decisions.
Hunters should thoroughly familiarize themselves with the new rules this year, as all regulation changes take effect Aug. 1 of this year.
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