Your Involvement

Help protect our island wildlife: Kiawah Island is home to a diverse array of plant, bird, and animal species.

Apply for the Naturally Kiawah Recognition Program

The Kiawah Conservancy, in partnership with the Town of Kiawah Island and Kiawah Island Community Association, developed the Naturally Kiawah Recognition Program to encourage property owners to restore and maintain wildlife habitat in residential landscapes. To receive a free habitat evaluation or to learn more click here. This evaluation may qualify you for a Naturally Kiawah designation.

Create Wildlife Habitat

Use native plants in landscaping whenever possible

The use of native plant materials that flourish in the maritime forest environment on Kiawah or the few non-native plants that have been introduced successfully provide a low-maintenance approach to a lush and complementary landscape. Native plants tend to make a property look as though it is truly a part of the Island. They will contribute to the health of the environment by providing food and cover for wildlife, and once established, can be maintained by normal rainfall.

Native plants have evolved over centuries to thrive in the Kiawah environment. When we use plants native to the Island, we take full advantage of the evolutionary process of natural selection. Non-native plants that are used and grown elsewhere will generally not flourish on Kiawah. With a few exceptions, maintaining them will require constant attention through fertilizing, watering, and pest control. They will be of less value to island wildlife and the existing environment will have to be altered for them to survive. They also are typically much more susceptible to destruction by the native deer population on the Island.

Eliminate invasive exotic plant species from your property

Exotic plants are often more expensive to maintain then the native varieties, largely from chemicals to keep them healthy and water requirements. These plants also can escape into our native landscapes and outcompete more valuable native plants. Plants to avoid: Chinese tallow tree, Silverthorn, Russian Olive, Phragmites, Chinaberry, Japanese Privet, Kudzu, Chinese Wysteria, Mimosa, and Beach vitex.

Minimize use of pine straw, mulch, sod, and herbicides. Install drip irrigation

Replace pine straw when possible with native groundcovers or shrubs. Pine straw, mulch, and sod provide little habitat value and are expensive to maintain. Pine straw is an annual expense and can be costly to install especially in large areas. There is also the additional expense of using herbicides to keep weeds out of the area. The use of native plants in these areas will require an initial investment (plant cost and water to establish them). In the long run though, the need for annual pine straw will be eliminated, less chemicals will be required, and eventually any supplemental irrigation can be turned off. The aesthetic and wildlife value difference between large areas of pine straw and a well-planted native area is night and day.

Switching to native plants and drip irrigation can have significant financial benefits in addition to aesthetic and wildlife value. It costs much less to maintain native plants than turf and drip irrigation is less expensive and conserves water much better then sprinkler systems. Overall, native plants are less expensive to maintain then exotic species. In addition, chemicals used in landscape operations programs are expensive to use and can have a cumulative negative effect on the landscape.

Stay out of bird nesting areas and dune environments along the beach

Kiawah’s dune system and open beach areas are valuable nesting habitat for a variety of bird species, including least terns, black simmers, Wilson’s plovers, American Oystercatchers, common ground doves, and many others. Please stay out of the dunes and avoid bird nesting areas that are marked with signage.

Walk around, not through, groups of shorebirds on the beach

Shorebirds are a very common sight along the Kiawah beachfront where they actively forage and rest. Many shorebird species migrate great distances and stop on Kiawah’s beach to feed and rest in preparation for migration. Disturbing these birds by walking through them can prevent them from being able to prepare for migration resulting in their deaths. Please help protect our shorebirds by taking the time to walk around groups of shorebirds and by keeping dogs from chasing them.

Do not approach, feed or harass alligators

Alligators may seem slow and lethargic but they are capable of great speed over short distances. Never approach within 60 feet of an alligator. Do not intentionally feed alligators or allow them to consume crab or fishing bait. An alligator that has been fed quickly loses his fear of humans and can be very aggressive towards people. t is against state and local law to feed or entice alligators with food. If convicted, offending individuals can receive a $200 fine and up to 30 days in prison. It is also against the law to harass or harm an alligator in any way. This includes throwing rocks, sticks, or any object at an alligator. If convicted, fines can be up to $5,000 and 1 year in prison. Anyone witnessing unlawful actions against alligators should report them to the Kiawah Island Community Association (KICA) Security immediately (843-768-5566).

Drive cautiously on the island especially during dawn and dusk hours

Our island wildlife species are most active during dawn, dusk, and nighttime hours. Please use caution as you drive around the island. Collisions with vehicles are also the leading cause of death for our island bobcats. Help protect all our wildlife by being vigilant and slowing down when driving during these peak wildlife movement times.

Don’t litter

Kiawah island is a beautiful and clean place and we want to keep it that way! Litter not only makes the island look bad but it hurts our environment as well. Plastic products, fishing line, and crabbing supplies are responsible for injury and death to thousands of fish and birds each year. Keeping Kiawah clean only takes a small amount of effort from each individual. Please do you part in ensuring the persisting beauty and cleanliness of Kiawah island.
Recycle – Residents can recycle paper, glass, plastic, and steel cans by placing these items in their personal recycle bins for weekly pick up. Recycle bins are available at Town Hall (768-9166). Visitors can recycle these items with the addition of cardboard by taking them to the recycling centers located in the Town Hall Parking Lot and behind the Fire Station on Sora Rail Road.