Dr. Thomas Rainwater is a wildlife toxicologist for the U.S. government and a researcher at the Yawkey Wildlife Center. Dr. Rainwater came to teach us about our local “dragons.” He explained to us how to identify distinguish alligators from crocodiles, how they nest, and how to be safe around them.

A few years ago, alligators were near extinction, but they have made an amazing comeback, thanks to their endangered species status and to the efforts of conservationists such as Phil Wilkinson, who is a world-famous alligator expert and mentor to Dr. Rainwater. Mr. Wilkerson lives in Georgetown and we got to meet him at this Open Forum.

Dr. Rainwater and Mr. Wilkinson made several ground-breaking studies about alligators. For example, they discovered that alligators stop growing at a certain age. They were also able to prove that alligators do eat in the winter. A sudden cold snap one year killed several specimens–almost all of which were found to have fresh food in their stomachs.

“Don’t feed the alligators,” Dr. Rainwater told us. “A fed alligator is a dead alligator.” Feeding an alligator is not only dangerous to the human feeding it, but it puts the alligator’s life in danger. Once an alligator has been fed, it associates food with people and will approach them without fear. Alligators that have been “trained” to seek out humans must be destroyed, even though it is certainly not their fault. So please, don’t feed the alligators.

By Manny