Hilton Head Island abounds with wildlife all year-round, making the island a natural wonderland full of local animals.
Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins
Local waters host a large, year-round population of these playful, air-breathing mammals. The South Carolina Lowcountry is also one of the few places to witness strand feeding – a learned behavior where dolphins work as a team to corral fish, chase them onto a muddy bank and then temporarily beach themselves to eat their catch.
Once the most common or “tacky” horse found in the Southeast, this Colonial Spanish breed is uniquely adapted for survival in swampy terrain. On the Sea Islands, Gullah families used them for transportation, hunting and farming. Today, fewer than 200 of these small, gentle horses exist.
Keep your distance from these federally-protected, prehistoric reptiles often seen sunning themselves on the banks of lagoons and in the Sea Pines Forest Preserve. It is illegal to feed these cold-blooded animals and, although they may look listless and slow, they can outrun humans over short distances.
Loggerhead Sea Turtle
Every summer, dozens of female loggerhead sea turtles travel thousands of miles to Hilton Head Island, returning to lay their eggs on the same beach where they hatched two or three decades earlier. It is a federal offense to harass these 300-pound reptiles, their nests or the hatchlings.
A common lizard in South Carolina and Georgia, often called a chameleon for its ability to change color. They are the only anole species native to the United States. Males have a pink throat fan they display when protecting their territory or finding a mate.
Southeastern Five-Lined Skink
The skink is named for the five white or yellowish stripes running down their backs. These moderately large lizards eat a variety of insects and spiders. Like many other lizards, their tails will break off if attacked. But it is only a myth that they are venomous.