The gator hunting bill

Alligators are not the endangered species they once were, and if they become a nuisance, South Carolinians should be allowed to shoot them on private property.

The state Senate passed a bill last year that allowed hunters to shoot gators only after they got the reptiles under control with ropes or lines. That restriction was aimed at preventing hunters from wounding a gator, which then would swim off to die somewhere else.

Recently, however, State Rep. David Umphlett, R-Moncks Corner, persuaded fellow representatives to change the alligator hunting bill to allow hunters to shoot free-swimming gators. He argues that capturing an alligator first is both difficult and dangerous, and people need the option of simply shooting problem gators on their property.

Umphlett estimates that he has dozens of gators on his property in Berkeley County, and they continue to proliferate. While alligators still are considered a threatened species, the state Department of Natural Resources estimates there are 100,000 of them in the state.

With booming development along the coast, people are certain to encounter gators more frequently. With that in mind, limited hunting is reasonable, especially when problem gators are involved. People should be permitted to defend themselves, their families and their pets.

We also think Umphlett has a point. Requiring people to rope an alligator before shooting it is potentially dangerous.

Ultimately, however, if people plan to live near the water in the deep South, they need to learn how to coexist with alligators. And the best way to do that is to leave them alone.