Daufuskie Wildlife

Daufuskie Wildlife

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American Alligator

Alligators that shared the earth with dinosaurs 180 million years ago looked almost the same as today’s alligators. Along the Atlantic coast, American alligators are distributed from the Florida Everglades to North Carolina. In South Carolina, American alligators make extensive use of the state’s coastal marshlands. They primarily live in freshwater. However, they will occasionally venture into salt water. (In the summer of 2009 one was spotted swimming just off the short of Bloody Point Beach.)

With such beauty and isolation comes many unconventional and often difficult challenges to keeping it beautiful, clean, and self-sustaining. This is one of the many reasons Daufuskie Island Conservancy was created.

American Alligator

Alligators that shared the earth with dinosaurs 180 million years ago looked almost the same as today’s alligators. Along the Atlantic coast, American alligators are distributed from the Florida Everglades to North Carolina. In South Carolina, American alligators make extensive use of the state’s coastal marshlands. They primarily live in freshwater. However, they will occasionally venture into salt water. (In the summer of 2009 one was spotted swimming just off the short of Bloody Point Beach.)

With such beauty and isolation comes many unconventional and often difficult challenges to keeping it beautiful, clean, and self-sustaining. This is one of the many reasons Daufuskie Island Conservancy was created.

Loggerhead Sea Turtles

The loggerhead sea turtle, our state reptile, has a rich reddish-brown carapace and yellow plastron. The loggerhead’s large skull provides for the attachment of strong jaw muscles for crushing conchs and crabs. Loggerheads usually leave the cold coastal waters in the winter and are often seen along the western edge of the Gulf Stream. The major nesting area for the loggerhead in the western Atlantic is the southeastern United States. In South Carolina, the primary nesting beaches are between North Inlet and Prices’ Inlet, but other beaches in the southern part of the state also have moderate nesting densities. These are mainly undeveloped nesting beaches between Kiawah Island and Hilton Head. The nesting season runs from mid May to mid August.

Loggerhead Sea Turtles

The loggerhead sea turtle, our state reptile, has a rich reddish-brown carapace and yellow plastron. The loggerhead’s large skull provides for the attachment of strong jaw muscles for crushing conchs and crabs. Loggerheads usually leave the cold coastal waters in the winter and are often seen along the western edge of the Gulf Stream. The major nesting area for the loggerhead in the western Atlantic is the southeastern United States. In South Carolina, the primary nesting beaches are between North Inlet and Prices’ Inlet, but other beaches in the southern part of the state also have moderate nesting densities. These are mainly undeveloped nesting beaches between Kiawah Island and Hilton Head. The nesting season runs from mid May to mid August.

Lights Out for Loggerheads

The support of South Carolina coastal residents is needed more than ever to raise awareness and educate our visitors to Keep Light’s Out for Loggerheads.  The loggerhead (Caretta caretta) sea turtle nesting season is May through October.  Nesting occurs on the beaches of South Carolina’s barrier islands. From May to mid-August, loggerheads come ashore to deposit approximately 120 eggs in a nest cavity in the dry sand dune system.  Sixty days later, loggerhead hatchlings emerge from the nest at night and head to the ocean.  Nests hatch from July through the end of October.  During the nesting season, loggerheads may be disoriented by artificial lights.  A disorientation event occurs when artificial light from man-made sources leads turtles away from the ocean.

Loggerheads are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and are protected by federal and state laws. The loggerhead nesting population in the southeastern United States is continuing to decline and it has been recommended that this species be reclassified from threatened to endangered.  If a sea turtle hatchling is disoriented by artificial light, the maximum federal fine for harming a threatened species is $25,000. County and local lighting ordinances exist to protect sea turtles.  To see a list of lighting ordinances in South Carolina, please visit: http://www.dnr.sc.gov/seaturtle/volres/ordinances.pdf.  Violating local or county lighting ordinances carry fines up to $500.

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egrets (Egretta thula) breed in the United States mainly alongthe coasts, from Oregon and Maine southward andalong the Gulf of Mexico. They will also breed on inland wetland sites. The winter range of snowy egrets found along the Atlantic Coast extends from southern New Jersey south into the Bahamas, Cuba, and the Greater Antilles. The timing of breeding varies across the snowy egret’s range, typically occurring in the United States between March and May. A platform nest of sticks and twigs is built by both sexes, typically in a tree or shrub 5-30 feet off the ground. The female lays 2-6 pale blue-green eggs 1.7 inches long. Both sexes share in incubating the eggs for about 3 weeks. Snowy egrets have 1 brood per year. The young remain in the nest for about thirty days and are fed by both parents.

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egrets (Egretta thula) breed in the United States mainly alongthe coasts, from Oregon and Maine southward andalong the Gulf of Mexico. They will also breed on inland wetland sites. The winter range of snowy egrets found along the Atlantic Coast extends from southern New Jersey south into the Bahamas, Cuba, and the Greater Antilles. The timing of breeding varies across the snowy egret’s range, typically occurring in the United States between March and May. A platform nest of sticks and twigs is built by both sexes, typically in a tree or shrub 5-30 feet off the ground. The female lays 2-6 pale blue-green eggs 1.7 inches long. Both sexes share in incubating the eggs for about 3 weeks. Snowy egrets have 1 brood per year. The young remain in the nest for about thirty days and are fed by both parents.

Right Whale

Right whales are the rarest of all large whales. There are several species, but all are identified by enormous heads, which can measure up to one-third of their total body length. These whales’ massive heads and jaws accommodate hundreds of baleen “teeth.” Rights and other baleen-feeding whales use a comblike strainer of baleen plates and bristles to ensnare tiny morsels of food as they swim. Right whales feed on zooplankton and other tiny organisms using baleens up to 8 feet (2.4 meters) long.

Southern and the two species of northern right whales live in temperate Atlantic or Pacific waters, often near the coast.

Right Whale

Right whales are the rarest of all large whales. There are several species, but all are identified by enormous heads, which can measure up to one-third of their total body length. These whales’ massive heads and jaws accommodate hundreds of baleen “teeth.” Rights and other baleen-feeding whales use a comblike strainer of baleen plates and bristles to ensnare tiny morsels of food as they swim. Right whales feed on zooplankton and other tiny organisms using baleens up to 8 feet (2.4 meters) long.

Southern and the two species of northern right whales live in temperate Atlantic or Pacific waters, often near the coast.

No calves born to critically endangered right whales known to migrate and birth off South Carolina

by Bo Petersen Excerpt taken from The Post and Courier

No new calves of the imperiled right whales were born this year, according to surveyors — furthering fears that the species is on what one expert called the “knife edge” of extinction.

The absence of newborns is something that hasn’t been seen in 30 years of observing the whales’ migration. The National Marine Fisheries Service made the announcement as survey flights shut down at the close of the winter calving season.

The news comes with the whale population in an extremely vulnerable position, said Michael Jasny, the marine animal protection director of the National Resources Defense Council. He characterized it as a knife edge.

No calves born to critically endangered right whales known to migrate and birth off South Carolina

by Bo Petersen Excerpt taken from The Post and Courier

No new calves of the imperiled right whales were born this year, according to surveyors — furthering fears that the species is on what one expert called the “knife edge” of extinction.

The absence of newborns is something that hasn’t been seen in 30 years of observing the whales’ migration. The National Marine Fisheries Service made the announcement as survey flights shut down at the close of the winter calving season.

The news comes with the whale population in an extremely vulnerable position, said Michael Jasny, the marine animal protection director of the National Resources Defense Council. He characterized it as a knife edge.

Wood Stork

The wood stork (Mycteria americana) is a large wading bird in the stork family Ciconiidae. It is the only stork that breeds in the United States. Wood storks in South Carolina initiate nesting from March to late May. They nest in colonies, frequently with other colonial wading birds such as egrets and herons. Often, many nests will be found in a single tree, sometimes touching. The birds build a flat, platform nest up to three feet in diameter,with sticks and branches collected by the male, preferably in trees standing in water or on small islands. Such locations, particularly if alligators are present, make predation of the nest by mammals such as raccoons more difficult.

They typically have one brood per year but may produce a second brood in the case of early season nest failure. Week-old chicks maybe fed as many as 15 times per day. They grow rapidly. Young wood storks begin to take short flights at about 8 weeks of age, returning to the nest to eat and sleep until about 11 weeks old.

Wood Stork

The wood stork (Mycteria americana) is a large wading bird in the stork family Ciconiidae. It is the only stork that breeds in the United States. Wood storks in South Carolina initiate nesting from March to late May. They nest in colonies, frequently with other colonial wading birds such as egrets and herons. Often, many nests will be found in a single tree, sometimes touching. The birds build a flat, platform nest up to three feet in diameter,with sticks and branches collected by the male, preferably in trees standing in water or on small islands. Such locations, particularly if alligators are present, make predation of the nest by mammals such as raccoons more difficult.

They typically have one brood per year but may produce a second brood in the case of early season nest failure. Week-old chicks maybe fed as many as 15 times per day. They grow rapidly. Young wood storks begin to take short flights at about 8 weeks of age, returning to the nest to eat and sleep until about 11 weeks old.

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