ONSLOW COUNTY - Two Marines are facing misdemeanor charges for allegedly killing a gator. Richard Salzer and Richard Mitchell are accused of capturing, shooting, and skinning an alligator Saturday night.
According to public documents, it happened in Blue Creek in Jacksonville.
"I was sitting out here when I heard the shots," said neighbor Marilee Dyches.
Dyches had no idea what had occurred until she saw N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission enforcement officers in the neighborhood the next day. Neighbors say there's a steady flow of alligators in the creek near their homes. Dyches says the alligators retreat when people are nearby them.
The wife of one of the Marines charged disagrees. She wished to stay anonymous but said the alligators are a danger to her family.
Sergeant Charles Smith, an enforcement officer with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, says alligators are common in the coastal regions of southeast North Carolina.
"Just because you see an alligator, if you see an alligator in a creek or if your backyard butts up to a creek, that doesn't necessarily mean that you have a nuisance alligator," said Smith.
Smith says residents should contact wildlife officers if they are concerned about a particular alligator. In most cases, it is not necessary to do anything if you see an alligator. The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission typically will not relocate alligators unless there is a threat to the animal or nearby humans.
Smith says, in addition to the criminal penalty, those convicted of killing an alligator will have to pay more than $4,000 in fines.
"Alligators were put on the Endangered Species Act in the 1970's. They were close to extinction, and they are still covered by the Federal Endangered Species Act," said Smith.
Alligators are now considered a threatened species, but Smith says the animal still needs the protection offered by the act.
Smith wanted to remind residents that feeding and harassing alligators are both illegal and dangerous.
Salzer and Mitchell's next court date is October 30th.
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