New update (August 2011) - Where, exactly, will gators post up (and not be removed) in Virginia?
Click here to find out!
Large mature American Alligator in Alligator River NWR, less than 50 miles south of the NC-VA border.
Photo: Alligator River NWR Blog
Two factors - alligator hunting (for skins) and swamp timber harvesting (resulting in increased swamp access and even more gator hunting) - decimated the American Alligator population in the late 1800s and early 1900s, notably the 1920s-1940s. In 1967, USFWS listed them as federally Endangered, and following 20 years of full protection, they were re-classified as Threatened in 1987. The primary remaining threat to alligators is the loss of marsh habitat to real estate development. However, healthy, reproducing populations are documented as far north as northern North Carolina, within 20 miles of the Virginia border.
- alligators (wild, not abandoned pets) are living within 20 miles of the VA-NC border.
- alligators are reproducing in at least two distinct areas within 70 miles of the border.
- Mature alligators are living (perhaps reproducing) within the Dismal Swamp NWR, which crosses the border.
Alligators (likely wild) have been spotted recently in the Back Bay area of Virginia Beach, the Virginia portion of Dismal Swamp NWR, and the Dismal Swamp Canal near the VA-NC border. Many other gators, likely abandoned pets, have been captured to the north and west, where they have survived winters - multiple winters, in some cases - and are feasting on turtles, fish, and small mammals. Those animals all happen to be alligators' favorite foods, and they occur "aplenty" in Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland stormwater ponds and reservoirs.