MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- The American Alligators here and Marine Corps Air Station New River are considered by many people fascinating creatures. However, they are wild animals and should be respected with distance and caution, according to the Environmental Management Department.
North Carolina is the northernmost area with a gator population and to help keep the species thriving here, they are an endangered species. In other places of natural habitat, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has considered them a threatened species since 1973.
The EMD here takes an even more aggressive role with the gators by posting warning signs in their territories, taking population surveys and relocating alligators that become "too friendly."
"Throughout the estimated 100-200 gators in the Camp Lejeune area, we've only had to relocate nine gators in the past seven years," said Carmen Lombardo of Paterson N.J., a fish and wildlife biologist with the Environmental Management Department. "Another impressive fact is that we haven't had to destroy an alligator; relocation has always solved the problem."
Relocating gators to various ponds and creeks aboard base gives the reptile a second chance to get away from the human population and removes the gator's curious tendencies about humans. Although alligators will usually avoid close contact, consistent interaction will sometimes lessen their fear of humans.
"Once a gator becomes habituated to human activity, because of the availability of food, they become a potential problem," said Lombardo. "Gators are here for us to enjoy? but remember that we as humans have as much curiosity with wildlife as it sometimes has with us."
According to Lombardo, the frequency of large alligator sightings aboard base usually increases during the month of July because breeding season has taken place and the air and water temperatures are rising. Being cold-blooded alligators must bask in the sun to maintain their body temperatures.
To report sightings of alligators here contact the game warden at 451-2196 or 450-0108 for Marine Corps Air Station New River.