Marine Mammals

dolphin3A variety of marine mammals inhabit the ocean around Kiawah Island. The most common by far is the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus). Adult dolphins will be 6-10 feet in length and weigh up to 500 pounds or more. These dolphins can be seen frequently in the surf, inlet, rivers, and creeks surrounding Kiawah Island. One of the best spots to see dolphins is in Captain Sam’s Inlet, which separates Kiawah from Seabrook Island on the western end of Kiawah’s beach.  It is about a 1-mile walk to the west from Beachwalker County Park.

Dolphins can often be seen actively feeding in this area. Sometimes observers will be lucky enough to see dolphins engaged in an activity known as strand feeding.  A group of dolphins which will herd a school of fish or shrimp up onto a sandbar or mudflat. Then the dolphins will literally launch their bodies out of the water to feed. It is a unique behavior which is fascinating to watch. Kiawah’s dolphins’ strand feed throughout the year in a variety of places.Dolphin strand feeding activity typically peaks within 3 hours of low tide each day. It is also more common in the spring and fall but can be seen throughout the summer as well. If you a fortunate enough to encounter strand feeding dolphins, please maintain a distance of 75 feet and do not approach any closer.

On rare occasions, dolphins and other marine mammals, including seals and whales, will become stranded along our beach. Typically these animals are sick or stressed in some way. Kiawah Island is part of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network which provides access to professionals trained to handle these occurrences. It is important that the appropriate professionals are notified as quickly as possible so that they can respond to the situation immediately.

If you see a marine mammal, dead or alive, stranded on the beach please immediately call Town Hall (768-9166), KICA Security (768-5566), or the SC Department of Natural Resources 24-hour hotline (1-800-922-5431).