Located about 70 miles south of Savannah, Georgia, Jekyll Island is famous for the cute and furry little creatures that live in around its beaches and shorelines: sea turtles, birds, white-tail dear … and of course … alligators!
Jekyll Island Authority, which manages the island, has recently posted close to 30 signs along ditches, the edge of ponds, and the entrances of their four golf courses, warning tourists to be aware that alligators are quite common in these areas. The signs, baring an alligator image on them, also advise visitors not ‘to feed the wildlife’.
Since the Walt Disney incident that occurred in June of this year, where a gator took the life of a toddler, Jekyll Island have been diligent at ensuring these new signs are up, and being noticed. Island employees are also working hard to develop notices on informing visitors to not toss food to these alligators, especially at a pond near and around a picnic area.
At one point, Jekyll Island was solely an attraction for the wealthy, until it was purchased by Georgia in 1947, and turned into a state park. State law says that two-thirds of the area needed to stay undeveloped, to make sure people could share the region with the plethora of wildlife that have inhabited the island.
MSN reported that researchers have estimated that there are about 67 to 124 alligators, currently on the island, where marches and uplands cover about nine square miles; and these gigantic reptiles can easily be spotted by visitors. In fact, videos posted online by tourists often will show gators on Jekyll Island, hanging out in the water, quite close to a bike path, waddling into bushes near a public building, or sometimes even walking along a beach.
As scary as the creatures may seem, Jekyll Island has embraced the idea of having these alligators around as a way to teach humans, how to co-exist with the surrounding wildlife. In fact, they hold a “Gatorology 101” class to help teach visitors about alligator conservation, and how to observe these magnificent animals, within safe limitations
Still, reported incidents of alligators injuring human are quite uncommon in Georgia. The only known case of this on Jekyll Island, occurred over twenty years ago.
Regardless, Jekyll Island’s new efforts to raise awareness about alligators in and around the park comes at a time where many new tourists are coming to visit, for the very first time. In fact, according to the island’s Authority, new convention spaces, hotels, and other amenities are increasing tourism to the island, with a 25 percent rise in the first half of the year, versus the same time period, two years ago.