Residents and vacationing guests on Seabrook Island experience many magical opportunities to witness nature in action. Deer, bobcats, foxes, raccoons and our beloved bottlenose dolphins coexist harmoniously with our island residents and guests. On occasion, you may witness dolphin strand feeding when you visit Kiawah Island and Seabrook Island.
The bottlenose dolphins are omnipresent in the coastal waterways bordering Seabrook Island. Residents and guests are privileged to observe the dolphins swimming along the shoreline and meandering in and out of the tidal creeks. The greater Charleston area hosts a resident population of about 350 dolphins.
In the Kiawah/Seabrook/Stono River area, we have about 25 resident dolphins. The population swells seasonally as these majestic mammals migrate north and south. Our local population stays here year-round. On occasion, you may witness them to engage in the rare act of dolphin strand feeding.
Dolphin strand feeding is a hunting phenomenon unique to only a few areas in the world. This learned behavior is passed from mom to calf. The dolphins herd the fish into a shallow area where they push the fish up on the mudflats and enjoy a tasty meal! If not learned early, a dolphin will not engage in this behavior later in life.
This delicate act is at risk of becoming extinct! It is our hope that through education and the dedicated work of people like Lauren Rust and her volunteers, this learned feeding behavior will be preserved for future generations to experience.
Lowcountry Marine Mammal Network
I recently enjoyed the opportunity to meet with Lauren Rust, Executive Director of the Lowcountry Marine Mammal Network. The LMMN’s mission is to protect Charleston’s local marine mammals through:
LMMN provides education to beach visitors, engages local school children to become marine stewards in their backyards, and encourages local organizations and businesses to follow best viewing practices to reduce harassment of wild dolphins. With many years of experience working with the marine mammal community, LMMN aims to act as a bridge between the scientific and local communities.
Thanks to grants from the Towns of Kiawah and Seabrook Islands, LMMN is continuing an outreach program started by NOAA in 2015 to provide education and outreach to beach visitors on Kiawah and Seabrook Islands about strand feeding dolphins.
In 2019, this program was awarded an Achievement Award by the Municipal Association of South Carolina for the program’s innovation, excellence, and partnerships. The Lowcountry Marine Mammal Network is dependent on volunteers to fulfill their mission. Seabrook Island is fortunate to have several residents who graciously offer their time and knowledge to help offer information and guidance to guests and residents who encounter our resident dolphins.
When You Encounter Dolphins
If you encounter dolphins strand feeding, please follow these important viewing practices:
- Keep a distance of at least 50 yards between you and dolphins if you are on a boat or vessel
- Turn motor to neutral when dolphins are near or feeding
- Keep a distance of at least 15 yards between you and dolphins if you are on the beach
- Never touch dolphins or disturb them, especially during feeding. (It is illegal)
- Keep dogs leashed
- Report any inappropriate action to beach patrol
If you would like to learn more about our bottlenose dolphins and how you can help, please contact the Lowcountry Marine Mammal Network directly. Donations are gratefully accepted to support the mission of this vital non-profit organization. Click HERE to donate. If you would like to volunteer, please contact Brooke at email@example.com.
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Posted by Kat Holmes, Seabrook Exclusives. All Photos are the property of @snapkatphotos and may not be used without written permission.