Wildlife Surveys and Monitoring

The Town of Kiawah Island conducts a variety of wildlife surveys in an effort to estimate population size and abundance of many wildlife species. Surveys also allow biologists to look at population trends over time to better understand how our native wildlife species are adapting to changes on Kiawah Island. For more information on these surveys, click on the links below.

White-Tailed Deer

Spotlight surveys have been conducted for deer since 1997. Surveys are currently conducted for 2 consecutive nights during September/October and December/January. The survey route is 18.2 miles long and covers most of Kiawah Island. In order to calculate the density of deer on the island, biologists periodically conduct visibility estimates along the route.

By estimating the survey width using the estimates, it is possible to calculate the number of acres surveyed which is used to estimate deer density in deer per square mile.  Learn more.

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American Alligators

Alligator surveys are conducted annually during July or August for 2 consecutive nights. The survey route covers most of the ponds on the island. The total number of alligators are recorded along with an estimate of their length.  Alligator densities are reported as alligators per 100 acres of water. Learn more.

Gator Pop 2022 - Copy

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USGS Breeding Bird Survey

This annual Breeding Bird Survey has been conducted since 1998.  Consisting of 50 stops along a predetermined route, all birds seen or heard during a 3-minute period are recorded.  Data from this survey is submitted to USGS and is used to monitor trends and changes in bird populations and distribution at a regional or national scale. 

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Least Terns

Least Terns are a state threatened species that nests on the east end of Kiawah Island.  Historically, least terns nested on dry beach areas throughout the state but are currently only found nesting in a handful of locations in South Carolina, one of which is Kiawah Island.  Terns nest from May-July and the nesting area is clearly marked with signs prohibiting access.  An annual nest count has been conducted since they began nesting in 2006.

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Piping Plovers

Piping plovers are a Federally threatened species that utilize the beachfront habitat on Kiawah Island extensively from July to May each year.  Plover surveys are conducted during the fall, winter, and spring and detailed records are kept on number of birds seen, their locations, presence of bands, habitat use, and behavior.

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Red Knots

Red Knots were listed as federally threatened in 2014 as their numbers have dropped significantly.  A variety of researchers have placed unique alphanumeric flags on these birds to gather more information on migration patterns and survival.  Town Biologists conduct periodic surveys for red knots on the island and report flag combinations to aid in this research.  Town Biologists have logged more than 300 individual flagged red knot resightings.  Biologists also assist SCDNR and other natural resource agencies with cannon net captures.

View 2010 Cannon Net Capture Video

View Foraging Video

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Sea Islands Christmas Bird Count

The Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is a volunteer-based bird census conducted annually each winter.  The National Audubon Society has sponsored the event since 1900 when the first CBCs were held.  Currently there are over 2000 CBCs conducted across North and South America (and other countries) every year between December 14th and January 5th.  Each count takes place around the same date each year and all birds seen or heard are counted within a designated 15-mile diameter circle.  The data from each count are compiled by the National Audubon Society and the results were printed (up until this year) in an annual journal called American Birds.

The Sea Islands CBC was first conducted during the 2011-2012 CBC season as a test run.  It was a great success and has been continued each year since.  The count typically occurs on the first Monday in January and includes all of Kiawah Island, Seabrook Island, Wadmalaw Island, most of John's Island, and Deveaux Bank.  Participants are assigned a section of the circle and spend the day covering the area by car, on foot, or even by boat starting at or before sunrise to dusk or later.  To volunteer, email Aaron Given.  

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