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Published on : Monday, August 22, 2016
The Jekyll Island Authority, the state agency that manages the island off the coast of Georgia, has put up almost 30 warning signs near ponds and ditches and at golf course entrances over the last month.
The signs urges visitors to ‘be aware alligators are common in lakes, ponds and ditches’ and tell them ‘do not feed wildlife,’ each printed with a gator graphic.
Ben Carswell, the island’s conservation manager said that, Jekyll Island staff had already been working on notices to discourage tourists from tossing food to alligators, particularly at a pond next to a picnic area.
Once a remote getaway for wealthy industrialists, Jekyll Island became a state park after the state of Georgia purchased it in 1947. State law requires that two-thirds of the island remain undeveloped, ensuring people share the park with a wide range of wildlife.
Researchers conducting population surveys have counted anywhere from 67 to 124 alligators on Jekyll Island, which covers roughly nine square miles of uplands and marsh.
Jekyll Island’s new alligator awareness efforts come at a time when new hotels, convention space and other amenities are drawing many visitors to the park for the first time. For the first half of this year, the Jekyll Island Authority says, vehicle traffic increased 25 per cent compared to the same period in 2014. Hotel revenues were up 60 per cent.
With all those tourists come inevitable reports of people tossing food to alligators. Carswell said on a busy summer weekend that probably happens at least once or twice, particularly when the island has picnic tables next to a pond.
Besides the potential danger, there’s another reason not to throw food to alligators: it’s illegal. Feeding wild alligators is a misdemeanor in Georgia. Violators can be fined as much as $200 and jailed for up to 30 days.