Alligator 101 returns
The Brunswick News
By Donna Stillinger
April 24, 2015

Did you know alligators can be found in the ocean and on the beach, as well as in the marsh and in ponds?

Did you also know that their favorite “restaurant” is the marsh, not a pond or lagoon?

Those interesting in hearing more facts about American alligators should plan to join one of the experienced wildlife researchers on Jekyll Island and learn all about the biology and behavior of these sometimes mysterious reptiles.

Jekyll Island wildlife researchers will begin conducting the annual alligator program weekly beginning in May. The 45-minute program will include alligator 101 information, including basic biology, conservation challenges they experience and dispelling myths about alligator behaviors.

Information will be provided on the exciting alligator research taking place on Jekyll, as well as how Jekyll Island helps create a safe co-existence between alligators and people. There also will be tips on how to safely enjoy these intriguing predators and how individuals can help with alligator conservation.

“We want people to come and observe nature here on Jekyll Island. It is much better to observe animals in their natural element, not in a zoo or a park,” said Kimberly Andrews, research coordinator for the Jekyll Island Authority.

Observing wildlife in a natural setting requires visitors to know a few rules.

“Right now it’s breeding season for alligators on Jekyll. All of our gators are more active now that the temperatures are warming up. Males are attentive and territorial and could be seen as aggressive,” said Andrews.

Feeding wildlife is a no-no.

“Alligators are very smart. They learn easily. When humans feed them, they become unafraid of us and look to all people for food. As this happens, we have to dispose of the gator. Relocating them doesn’t work – they have a great homing sense and return, no matter the distance,” Andrews added.

“It’s best for the gators for humans to not feed them.”

The current population figure for alligators on Jekyll is 125, 75 percent of which are immature.

“Alligators typically breed at 6-8 years old. They regulate their own population, with the older, more mature gators killing the younger ones, so survivorship of our young ones is low,” she said.

To learn more about the island gator population and to help instill fear of humans in the animals, Jekyll Island researchers catch and tag all of them.

One special alligator, “Tiny,” helps with some of the alligator classes taught on the island.

Jekyll’s alligator program is appropriate for children and adults of all ages, and is available every Tuesday at 11 a.m. May through October.

Cost is $12 per adult, $8 per child. Children 3 and under are free. Georgia Sea Turtle Center members receive a 50 percent discount.

Space is limited to 25 people, and reservations are suggested. Reservations can be made online through
The Georgia Sea Turtle Center website or by calling 635-4444.

Participants will meet their guide behind McCormick’s Grill at the island’s golf courses and should expect for the presentation to begin on time.

Minimal walking or standing may be necessary. Folding chairs are allowed but will not be provided.

Photography is welcomed and encouraged.

Reporter Donna Stillinger writes about government and other local topics. Contact her at or at 265-8320, ext. 321.