How the land lies


Story by Bailey Gilliam

Great white herons, alligators, dolphins and sea turtles come to mind when we picture the native wildlife of Hilton Head Island, but there are plenty of land-locked animals indigenous to the area that are often overlooked. Here are some interesting Lowcountry mammals you probably didn’t realize are native to the area.

Every day is trash day

Raccoon Perhaps the most adaptable species in the area is the raccoon. It is one of the few species able to eat a variety of diets. It has a heightened sense of hearing, can track earthworms under the ground and fish underwater, and has the highest tactile sensitivity of any other animal.

Oh, deer!

Hilton Head white-tailed deer This subspecies of white-tailed deer are exclusively native to Hilton Head as the name suggests. These beautiful creatures are easy to spot as the island is home to hundreds of them. You’ll most likely find them around dawn and dusk and if you’re lucky, you might see them hanging out on the beach.

What does the fox say?

Fox Red foxes are one of the cleverest species that live in the Lowcountry. They communicate by facial expression and use over 28 vocalizations. You are likely to hear them at night in territorial fights or warning members of intruders approaching their many burrows and dens.

Not dead yet

Opossum It is common to see opossum at night on Hilton Head Island. This species can be nicely described as an opportunistic eater, so don’t be surprised to see the little critters looking for food around your home. The opossum is America’s only native marsupial.

Cat’s out of the bag

Bobcat Our area is the perfect habitat for bobcats, as they prefer coastal bottomland forests, but you may need a bit of luck to see one. Spotting a bobcat is quite rare as they are nocturnal and quite stealthy. However, they have been seen during the day at the Pinckney Island National Wildlife Reserve. Look out for a larger-than-average cat with a bobbed tail and long legs – just don’t get too close.

Pony up

Carolina Marsh Tacky Though not exactly found here at the beginning of time, the South Carolina state horse was left on the island by the Spanish centuries ago. It was once the most common “tacky” horse in the Southeast and is uniquely adapted for survival in swampy terrain. On Hilton Head, Gullah families used them for transportation, hunting and farming. There are fewer than 200 of this breed left, making them critically endangered. To see them up close, head to the Coastal Discovery Museum and find them grazing in the fields.

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