Any modeling of alligators at the northern end of their possible range (somewhere in Virginia) has an inherent difficulty with reality. The fact is, if a gator moves into a new habitat where there is a human-alligator conflict, the alligator will be removed and probably not re-released into the wild. I anticipate it will start happening in Virginia with some regularity because there is a far higher chance for human-alligator conflict in southern Virginia than there is in the sparsely- populated swamps and forests of northeastern North Carolina.
Those alligators in North Carolina appear to be on the move northward, and wild individuals have been spotted on the Virginia side of the border over the last several years. Most recently (3 months ago), a mature gator was spotted less than five miles from the Virginia border. Of course, state and federal biologists in Virginia still claim that there are no alligators in Virginia. None. Zero. So let's ignore them for a moment, and look at how alligators are actually (and could potentially) move from North Carolina to Virginia.
|Red: northern extent of reproducing alligators. |
Yellow: documented sightings of wild (not released) alligators.
Green: most likely migration routes.
So to complete this migration modeling exercise, I included not only the most likely habitats and areas to become alligator habitat in the next few decades (covered in Part II), but also a general overlay of gator habitats where alligators would be least likely to be removed. These areas include remote canals, extensive privately owned wetlands where the gators are least likely to be encountered, and publicly owned land where alligator intrusion would most likely be allowed to occur, whether for biological, public perception, or regulatory permit issues. This really means remote portions of wildlife refuges and wildlife management areas.
Depending on landowner desire/agency policy at the moment, I believe that a Virginia nuisance alligator would be most likely transferred to a captive habitat, and not released elsewhere in the wild.....again, stalling the northern migration of the species.
Areas most likely for capture and relocation (thus stalling the northern migration):
• Municipal ponds
• Community ponds and shorelines
• Public marsh or swamp with heavy visitor traffic
Given all those factors, I've come up with ten spots in the Tidewater region that are most likely to see repeated visits by alligators in the next decade or so, and are less likely to result in alligators being captured and removed.
|Satellite imagery courtesy of geology.com|
2. North Landing River - western shore marshes
3. Pungo marshes
4. Pungo canals and ponds
5. Holland Road ponds
6. Stumpy Lake
7. Intracoastal Waterway
8. Dismal Swamp Canal
9. Lake Drummond, Dismal Swamp
10. Back Bay (general)
What do you think? Are gators headed your way?