2020 Beyond the Beach - Magazine - Page 34
rom dolphins to sea turtles and a wide variety of
birds, Hilton Head Island is a nature lovers paradise.
As with anywhere, wildlife is great to look at, but it is best
not to pet, catch or feed any of the animals living in the
forests, lagoons and beaches. Here is some information
about the most common wildlife found on the Island.
Sea plants and animals
are an important part
of our eco-system. In addition to any other applicable
federal or state laws, our regulations state that no person
shall physically harm, harass, or otherwise disturb any sea
turtle, its eggs or hatchlings, any starfish or conch. The
removal of sea oats and other dune fauna is also prohibited. These prohibitions carry significant fines for offenders. Please do your part by not removing them from the
beach and dune areas. Beached or stranded sea turtles,
dolphins or whales should be reported immediately to the
Department of Natural Resources at 800-922-5431 or the
Sheriff’s Department at 843-785-3618.
Sea Turtle hatchlings usually emerge from the nest
at night. They orient themselves toward the brightest horizon and dash towards the sea. Lights from buildings and
streets near the beach disorient the hatchlings, and they
wander inland where they often die from exposure or predation. Artificial lights also discourage females from nesting. The Town of Hilton Head Island requires that the lights
on structures visible from the beach be shielded or turned
off after 10pm from May 1st to October 31st. Any windows
facing the beach must also be covered with draperies or
shade screens. Violation of this ordinance will result in a
Beachfront lights out for turtles May-October.
If you encounter an alligator
be sure not to feed it or aggravate it.
Alligators live in the lagoons and ponds around the
Island, so it would not be unlikely to spot one lurking in the
water or sunning itself on the shore. Alligators inuence the
types of species that live here; without alligators, the Island’s
environment and wildlife would be very different. Every year
on Hilton Head, alligators are harmed because people feed
or harass these huge creatures. You can help protect our
community’s alligators by avoiding interaction with them. If
we leave them alone, they leave us alone.
Dolphins abound in the waters around Hilton Head. You
can see them from the beach or a boat. About 200 of our
dolphin population are permanent, but many more are
migratory. Many dolphins are friendly to humans and will
come up to a boat out of curiosity. Kayaking is a great way
to get close to the dolphins, but can limit your range. A larger boat such as the ones used by the dolphin cruise companies provide a more comfortable platform to view the
dolphins, and many times the captains of these excursions
know exactly where to go.
Birds are everywhere on the Island. Sit back and
relax, and you will hear them calling to each other. As you
walk along the beaches, you are bound to see a large
number of gulls, terns and black skimmers. In the lagoons
surrounding your vacation rental, you will find egrets, Herons
and Ibis. Inland birds, those found in the forests and along
the bikeways on the Island, include the cardinal, mocking
bird, woodpecker, wren and hummingbirds.
Flora A number of our trees and plants do not exist ‘up
North” so they will be different and interesting to you and
your family. The tall trees with most of their leaves at the
top are Live Oak. These are actually evergreens, but unlike
the evergreens by your home, they do change their leaves
each year. The Moss draping around these Live Oaks is
Spanish Moss, and is not a moss at all. It is an air plant that
derives all it needs from rainwater and sunlight. Many visitors like to collect Spanish Moss, but you should proceed
with caution when doing so as it is often home to Chiggers
which are little insects that bite and leave very uncomfortable, itchy red spots.