A 69-year-old woman was attacked and killed by an alligator while walking her dog on Hilton Head Island on Tuesday morning (July 4, 2023), according to the Beaufort County sheriff’s office and the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR).
According to a news release from the office of sheriff PJ Tanner, deputies and first responders were dispatched to Brams Point Road in the Spanish Wells community of Hilton Head at approximately 9:28 a.m. EDT in response to “a report of a possible alligator attack near a lagoon bordering the golf course.”
Upon arrival, the female victim – identified by the Beaufort County coroner’s office as Holly Jenkins – was “found at the edge of the lagoon and appeared to be unresponsive,” according to to the release.
“Rescue efforts were made and an alligator appeared and was guarding the woman, interrupting emergency efforts,” the release continued. “The gator was safely removed from the area and the woman’s body was recovered.”
The incident marked the third fatal alligator attack in South Carolina within the last thirteen months.
Last August, a similar incident on Hilton Head claimed the life of 88-year-old Nancy Becker of Sun City, S.C. Two months prior to that attack, 75-year-old Michael Burstein died by drowning after an alligator dragged him into a retaining pond in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Since 2000, there have been six fatal alligator attacks in the Palmetto State. Three of those have taken place within the past three years.
South Carolina is home to an estimated 100,000 alligators, according to SCDNR. The average male grows to a size of approximately 11 feet – although a 13-foot, 6-inch gator weighing 1,025 pounds was caught on Lake Marion in 2010.
That animal is the largest alligator ever caught in the Palmetto State …
Alligators are apex predators – meaning they are at the top of the food chain. And they are all over the South Carolina coast, according to SCDNR.
“Nearly any water body in the coastal plain of South Carolina may contain alligators, and the mere presence of alligators in or adjacent to their natural habitat in South Carolina is a normal occurrence and not normally an emergency requiring the animal’s removal,” SCDNR biologists noted in a release earlier this year.
That release contained the following tips:
- Never feed alligators. Not only is it illegal in South Carolina to feed alligators, but it also teaches them to associate people with food. This can cause alligators to lose their natural fear of humans. In many cases, fed alligators will begin to approach at the sight of people and may become aggressive in seeking a handout. Also, don’t dispose of fish scraps or crab bait in the water at boat ramps, docks, swimming or camping areas. You can inadvertently be feeding alligators. If you see someone feeding alligators, contact the S.C. Department of Natural Resources at 1-800-922-5431.
- Avoid swimming or playing in areas known to harbor alligators. As the size of an alligator increases, so does the size of prey that it can consume. Alligators normally are more active during the night and can mistake splashing noises for prey. Only swim in areas designated for swimming. Higher levels of human activity found in designated swimming areas typically make alligators keep their distance. Other potential dangers include steep drop-offs, stumps, rocks, and other underwater obstructions that you may not be able to see if the location is not a designated swimming area. Also, never swim alone, not just because of alligators, but also as a normal safety measure.
- Keep pets out of the water if alligators are present. Pets are more vulnerable due to their smaller size and resemblance to alligators’ typical prey. Keep leashed pets away from the edge of the water, but if an alligator grabs your pet, let go of the leash.
- Don’t approach an alligator, keep your distance and leave them alone. Alligators can move in quick bursts over short distances but normally do not try to run after people. If an alligator hisses, it’s a warning that you are too close.
- If an alligator is in a place where it cannot reasonably be expected to get back to the water without posing a risk to itself or to others, or is in a location that presents an immediate hazard, such as a road, school, pool, parking lot, etc., contact SCDNR at 1-800-922-5431. Never attempt to capture or move an alligator by yourself.
State lawmakers approved a hunting season for alligators in 2008. It runs from September 12 to October 8. As many as 1,000 tags are issued each year, but only a few hundred are killed via the program.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.
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