Alligators in the Beaufort and Hilton Head Area
Many people think alligators can only live in fresh water. This is not true, as many gator's live in salt water for their entire life. Beaufort, Hunting Island and Hilton Head Island areas do have a healthy alligator population and they can be found in any area where water is present. The alligator is a protected reptile in South Carolina, but at times the state may open a special season to thin the population.
Most gator's found in the area will be in the tidal ponds or other pools of shallow water, such as lagoons. On just about any warm morning, you can find them laying in the sunlight on the banks of their ponds. They are absorbing the suns heat, as they are cold blooded. Once they have warmed up, they will move back into the water, looking like a floating or half submerged log. Area alligators can be covered with algae, which can make them very difficult to see.
Alligator Cautions and Warnings
Care must be exercised around any pond, standing water or while in the marsh and tidal flats. Although gator's will usually flee to the water around humans, they can become very aggressive when guarding their nest, young or during mating season. They have also been known to snatch small dogs or cats venturing too close. It is illegal to feed an alligator because once they become "friendly" with humans, they may later become aggressive expecting more food, and will often have to be destroyed. Watch them from a distance, but do not feed or entice them. When stalking and hunting, they have the ability to appear motionless, but are slowly moving in for the attack. They are masters of surprise attacks, and have survived since prehistoric times using this skill.
Never get too close to a gator, as they can be very fast and one will never know what they will do next. I have witnessed a gator on several occasions hiding near it's pond and grabbing a mature feeding deer by the neck, then dragging it to his pond for the kill.