When roaming Jekyll Island’s natural environment, guests are often curious about the American alligator native to the island. These amazing creatures are a great indicator of the island’s overall ecological health, as they are sensitive to environmental factors. A healthy population of alligators translates to a healthy island ecosystem. Additionally, alligators are a top predator on Jekyll Island, and they help maintain healthy populations of other animals. Most commonly, alligators will be found near lakes, especially around golf courses, but are not considered extreme threats to people. By following a simple set of guidelines, these impressive creatures can add a bit of extra wonder, but no harm, to your overall Jekyll Island experience. Just remember: Be kind. Stay back. Follow the rules. While exploring and enjoying Jekyll Island, follow these rules to maintain a safe but educational experience around alligators:
• Do not feed or attempt to feed the alligators: Alligators are protected by state and federal law and feeding them is illegal. When alligators are fed they lose their natural fear of humans.
• Be aware of your surroundings: Always be aware of alligators when you are anywhere near fresh or brackish water. Never intentionally approach or try to capture an alligator, no matter what size.
• Do not allow children to play in water inhabited by alligators: Always keep children a safe distance from the water’s edge, and never allow them to throw objects into the water. To an alligator, a splash potentially means a food source is in the water.
• Do not allow pets in or near water known to harbor alligators: Dogs and other small pets are more likely to be attacked than humans because they resemble natural prey. Please keep all dogs leashed and do not allow them to swim, drink, or play at the water’s edge.
• Play it safe when golfing: Never search for a lost golf ball in the water or on the bank. Of course, never try to hit a ball that has come to rest near an alligator.
Though Jekyll Island is home to a sizeable population of alligators, the animals rarely cause problems for island residents and guests. On occasion, an alligator will be seen in the road, or may enter a private backyard. Want to learn more? As part of the island alligator research efforts supported by the Jekyll Island Authority, Georgia Department of Natural Resources and NOAA, researchers at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center will offer an Alligator Education Program from April 2nd to October 1st. Guests will learn about the habitats and lifestyles of the native American alligator. This 45-minute program is offered at 10 a.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays now through October 1st, meeting at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. Reservations may be made online at http://gstc.jekyllisland.com/programs/alligator-program/. A small fee of $2 is required, space is limited.
For more information about Jekyll Island and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, visit jekyllisland.com.