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CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) -- South Carolina has fewer large alligators and wildlife officials say that could hurt the species.

The Post and Courier of Charleston reported (http://bit.ly/15ZHzdT ) hunting is the reason for the decline in alligators at least 10 feet long.

Wildlife officials say the larger alligators are key for breeding. .

South Carolina's one-month public hunting season starts Sept. 14.

Officials estimate up to 2,000 alligators are killed in South Carolina each year, including nuisance gators who come too close to people.

The state's alligator population is estimated at 100,000.

The Department of Natural Resources says the number of large alligators hunted last year appeared to dropping.

Nuisance alligator trapper Ron Russell says it takes a long time for an alligator to mature. He says a 9-foot gator might be 30 years old.

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