Reptiles


Non-venomous Snakes

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Banded Water Snake


Light brown, reddish or black with darker crossbands on body. Oval head.

Where to see

Fairly common around ponds and wetlands.

Notes

Non-venomous. 2-4 feet long. Similar in appearance to cottonmouth, but can be distinguished by oval head and round pupils. Cottonmouth has triangular head and vertical pupils. Fairly aggressive, but harmless. Eats primarily fish and frogs.

Eastern King Snake_KICA

Eastern Kingsnake


Black with white rings around body.

Where to see

Uncommon on all parts of the island.

Notes

Non-venomous. Constrictor. Up to 5 feet long. Eats rodents, birds, and lizards. Best known for their tendency to eat other snakes, including venomous species such as rattlesnakes.

Garter Snake

Eastern Garter Snake


Small, slender body. Brownish-gray to black with 3 yellow stripes down length of body.

Where to see

Common on all parts of the island.

Notes

Non-venomous. 1-3 feet long. Commonly seen around homes and yards. Eats mainly amphibians. Can tolerate much colder temperatures than other snakes.

roughgreensnake_em

Rough Green Snake


Small and slender. Bright greenish-yellow.

Where to see

Fairly common on all parts of the island.

Notes

Non-venomous. Up to 3 feet long. Spend most of their lives in trees and bushes, typically near or over water. Eats insects and spiders which they capture and swallow whole.

Cornsnake2_Jim

Corn Snake


Brownish-yellow with red or orange blotches on back.

Where to see

Common throughout the island.

Notes

Non-venomous. 3-4 feet. Excellent climber. Eats rats, mice, birds, and lizards. Gets its name from the maize (Indian corn) pattern on its underbelly. Often confused with the venomous copperhead.

Black Racer2

Black Racer


Long and slender. Black in color, often with a white chin.

Where to see

Common on all parts of the island.

Notes

Non-venomous. Up to 5 feet long. Only active during the day. Very fast, often travels with head raised. Eats insects, lizards, snakes, birds, and rodents.

Yellowrat_JIM

Yellow Rat Snake


Yellowish-brown with 4 black bands running lengthwise on body.

Where to see

Common on all parts of the island.

Notes

3-6 feet. Non-venomous. Constrictor. Very good climbers, often seen in trees. Eats rats, mice, squirrels, birds, and bird eggs.

Venomous Snakes

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Cottonmouth (Water Moccasin)


Heavy, thick body. Large triangular head. Vertical pupils. Brown or black often with dark bands around body. Inside of mouth is white.

Where to see

Rare near wetlands.

Notes

Venomous. 2-4 feet long. Typically very sluggish and non-aggressive. Eats mostly fish, but also eats frogs, snakes, and turtles.

Copperhead_Miller

Copperhead


Large, triangular head.  Copper or pinkish with reddish-brown, hourglass-shaped crossbands.

 

Where to see

Uncommon on all parts of the island.

Notes

Our most common venomous snake, though still very  rarely seen.  2-4 feet long.  Eats rats, mice, birds, lizards, amphibians, and other snakes. 

Timber Rattler 2

Timber Rattlesnake (Canebrake)


Grayish-brown with lighter colored stripe running down back.  Blackish chevron bands.  Distinctive rattles on end of tail.

 

Where to see

Very rare in forests and swamps.   

Notes

Venomous.  3-5 feet long.  Eats rabbits, rats, mice, and squirrels.  Typically docile, only bites when aggravated.  Only 2 records from Kiawah in last 10 years.

Other Reptiles

se-5-lined_aaron

Southeastern Five-Lined Skink


Brown or grayish-black with 5 light-colored stripes. Young have bright blue tail.

Where to see

Common in forests and yards.

Notes

5-8 inches. Adults similar to broadhead skink but smaller. Eats insects, spiders, and other invertebrates. Not as visible as other skinks, often hides under logs or leaf litter.

Broadhead Skink_KIGR

Broadhead Skink


Brown or grayish- black, often with 5 light-colored stripes. Adult males have large, orange head. Young have a bright blue tail.

Where to see

Very common throughout island in forests and yards.

Notes

6-13 inches. Spends time in trees as well as on the ground. Eats insects, spiders, and other invertebrates.

racerunner_Keith

Six-Lined Racerunner


Light-brown to black with 6 yellow or white stripes running the length of body.

Where to see

All parts of island, dunes, forests, and open areas.

Notes

6-9 inches. Very fast. Eats insects, spiders, and other invertebrates. Often seen darting across the ground in an attempt to capture prey.

Glass Lizard_KIGR

Eastern Glass Lizard


Long and slender, light brown or yellowish-green, vertical white bars behind head.

Where to see

Dunes and forest.

Notes

18-43 inches. Looks like a snake but is actually a legless lizard. Eats insects, spiders, and other invertebrates. Will often drop off all or part of their tails when seized by a predator. The tail will grow back.

Green Anole

Green Anole


5-8 inch lizard, may be green or brown in color. Males have pink throat fan.

Where to see

Common on all parts of the island.

Notes

Active during the day, often seen basking on vegetation, fences, or buildings. Eats insects and other invertebrates. Changes color based on surroundings.

Box Turtle

Box Turtle


High, domed shell. Greenish-brown shell with yellow markings.

Where to see

Upland sites throughout the island.

Notes

Up to 8 inches. Omnivorous. Lives on dry land, often seeks cover under logs and debris. They can completely close up their shell when frightened or disturbed. Can live 60-80 years.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Eastern Mud Turtle


Small, oval-shaped, dark brown to black. Large head streaked with light coloration.

Where to see

Freshwater ponds and swamps.

Notes

3-5 inches. Omnivorous.
Eats insects, crustaceans, amphibians, and aquatic vegetation. Overwinters on land in a burrow in soft mud.

YBSlider_Cohen

Yellow-Bellied Slider


Vertical yellow bands on top, yellow belly, distinctive yellow spot behind eye.

Where to see

Freshwater and brackish ponds.

Notes

5-12 inches. Omnivorous. Commonly seen basking on logs and banks. Eats aquatic insects, fish, snails, as well as aquatic vegetation.

DiamondbackTerrapin

Diamondback Terrapin


Light brown or gray on top and yellow to olive on bottom.  Striking diamond-shaped pattern on top shell.  Whitish-gray skin with black spots and wavy markings.  5-8 inches, 0.5-1.5 pounds.  Feeds primarily on snails, worms, fish, and crabs.  In the marshes of Kiawah, terrapins eat mostly periwinkle snails and fiddler crabs.  Female terrapins reach maturity at 6 years of age (compared to 3 years for males).  Terrapins breed in early spring and females will leave the water in late spring or summer to lay their eggs, often on the sandy banks of hammock islands.  Females typically lay 4-18 eggs and the hatchlings emerge after about 3 months.

Where to see

Saltwater rivers and creeks.

Notes

In the early 1900’s, terrapins were considered a culinary delicacy and terrapin soup was a common menu item in restaurants. For this reason, terrapin populations suffered a significant decline due to overharvesting. As the taste for terrapin soup diminished, terrapin populations rebounded but they still face significant threats. One of the biggest threats is the accidental death of terrapins in crab traps. The Town of Kiawah Island encourages the use of Bycatch Reduction Devices (BRD) on all crab traps. BRDs can be obtained from the Night Heron Park Nature Center (768-6001). These devices help keep terrapins out of crab traps and will also help you catch more crabs. Note: Crab traps are not allowed in any of the ponds on Kiawah Island.

Loggerhead

Loggerhead Sea Turtle


The head and upper shell (carapace) are dark and reddish brown; the flippers and lower shell (plastron) are light yellow.  3-4 feet, 250-300 pounds. In coastal waters, feeds mainly on whelks, crabs, fishes, sponges, and jellyfish.  Breeding occurs in early spring in coastal waters.  Adult females come ashore to lay clutches averaging 120 eggs.  Eggs hatch 60 days later and the hatchlings remain in the nests for several days before they emerge as a group, typically at night, and head to the ocean.

Where to see

Ocean and Kiawah River, females come ashore to nest on beach at night from May-August each year.

Notes

Artificial light from homes behind the dunes can attract turtles leading to their demise.  Please keep beachfront lights out from May-October. Nesting efforts are monitored on our beaches by a dedicated group of volunteers.  The Turtle Program started in 1973 and the Town of Kiawah has provided funding and logistical support since 1990.  During the nesting season, volunteers patrol the entire beach each morning to locate and mark nests laid the previous night.  When nests begin to hatch, additional volunteers patrol sections of beach daily to check for emergence of hatchlings.  After hatching, each nest is excavated and inventoried.  Detailed records are kept of all activities and a report is prepared annually for SCDNR.  If you are interested in volunteering, please call Town Hall (768-9166).

Gator Close-up_KIGR

American Alligator


Alligators look like large lizards.  They have five toes on the front feet and four on the back feet.  The back feet are webbed to aid in swimming.  Their hide is very rough and covered in heavy blackish-colored scales. Hatchlings are typically black on top with yellow blotches or stripes.  Both males and females look identical. Most of the alligators seen on Kiawah will be between 3-8 feet in length, though larger alligators up to 11 feet are present in some areas of the island. Alligators are cold-blooded which means that they cannot self-regulate their body temperature as humans do. For this reason, alligators are most active during the spring, summer, and fall. They will often be seen basking on pond edges in the sun in an attempt to warm their body temperature, especially during colder weather.  Learn More.

 

Where to see

Alligators can be seen in almost all of the 150 brackish and freshwater ponds which are interspersed throughout the island.  

Notes

Alligators are incredibly adaptable animals and have existed for millions of years.  The only real threat to the alligator is man.  Remember, it is against the law to feed or otherwise harass alligators.  This includes activities, such as throwing sticks or rocks.  When people feed alligators, they will begin to associate people with food, creating a very dangerous situation.  These animals often have to be destroyed.  Town biologists typically remove 2-6 nuisance alligators per year under the state’s Nuisance Alligator Program.