Designated as a Wildlife Sanctuary, Fripp hosts more than 175 species of birds living along the ocean and Great Salt Marsh. On any given day, you can spot majestic brown pelicans flying in formation or great blue herons, snowy white egrets and wood storks stalking their next meal.
Among the native wildlife, you’ll find raccoons, alligators and an abundance of deer. The forests here are covered with live oaks, palmettos and pines.
Residents and guests at Fripp Island share this extraordinary habitat with a wide variety of alligators, turtles, dolphins, fish, deer, raccoon, and birds. It is the perfect place to live peacefully among nature and to observe and appreciate a wide variety of creatures.
A large herd of whitetail deer live on Fripp Island. Island deer tend to stand smaller than those found further North. Their coats change with the seasons. In winter, coats are darker so the sun’s heat is absorbed. In the Spring, that coat is shed for one lighter in color to reflect that light. Dusk is the best time to see deer. Look, but do not feed or touch them. While they may seem domesticated, the deer are wild and must be treated with respect.
The waters around Fripp Island have long been known as a fisherman’s paradise. In addition to crabs and shrimp, fishermen catch all kinds of fish, from trout and blacktip shark to Spanish mackerel, sheepshead, and flounder.
Dozens of giant loggerhead turtles come ashore on Fripp each spring and summer to lay eggs. The Fripp Island Loggerhead Patrol, a large group of volunteers under the auspices of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, educates the public and protects the turtles. Mama loggerheads weigh between 250 and 350 pounds and return to the vicinity of the beach where they were hatched to lay their eggs. The hatchlings are just a few inches long and are drawn to the sea by celestial light, but can be disoriented by artificial light. Beaufort County’s lighting ordinance requires no light be visible from barrier island beaches, thus the Loggerhead Patrol’s reminder, “lights off on the beach.”
Fripp Island Loggerhead Patrol
A dedicated team of trained volunteers goes out early each morning during the season (mid-May to mid-August) when loggerhead females may be laying eggs, to locate and mark nests, and be sure that they are safely above the high tide. The incubation period for the eggs is between 45 and 70 days. Hatchlings emerge from the nest at night and are drawn to the sea by celestial lights. Volunteers can be identified by their turquoise Fripp Turtle Patrol shirts.
Learn more about the Turtle Nest Protection Program.
A reptile with prehistoric lineage, the alligator has a very distinctive appearance with its armored lizard-like body and a long muscular tail and powerful jaws. Hundreds of alligators make their home in the lagoons and ponds on Fripp Island. While fascinating creatures, alligators are dangerous and it is illegal to feed them. Please be sure to observe the posted rules.
Fripp Island is surrounded by and contains a diverse and interesting wildlife, one the largest and most intelligent of these creatures is the bottlenose dolphin. In the waters around Fripp, there are two primary populations which are here year-round: a harbor population and marsh population. Though bottlenose dolphins are the most common species of dolphin and can be found in temperate and tropical waters across the globe, our populations exhibit a feeding behavior that is not found anywhere in the world except for a small stretch of U.S. Atlantic coast. This technique is called strand feeding, and involves a pod of dolphins chasing a school of fish onto a bank, such as beach or muddy shore. Then, with a huge burst of energy, they take turns heaving their bodies onto land to catch the stranded fish. This unique type of hunting raises the question of how these behaviors are passed on between generations: are they taught or inherited? Our head naturalist at Fripp Island Resort, Megan Grams, is trying to find some answers to that question through her Dolphin ID project. The dorsal fins of dolphins are like the human fingerprint; they are unique to each individual, so through observation and identification, Megan hopes to see if there is any interaction between the marsh and harbor populations, which could indicate a possible avenue for genetic or behavioral dissemination. She expects to one day develop a smartphone app which can be used as guide for anyone to identify and get to know our local dolphins!
Fripp Island is a bird sanctuary abounding with shorebirds, songbirds, and marsh birds, and is one of the largest undisturbed marsh and coastal areas on the Atlantic Coast. Over 80 species of birds can be seen on Fripp. In 2010, the National Audubon Society identified Fripp as part of an “Important Bird Area.” Soaring bald eagles and ospreys, painted buntings that appear in the spring, migrating shore birds, brown pelicans and wood storks which both were once endangered, as well as numerous egrets and blue herons, are among the many birds to be seen on Fripp Island.
The Nature Center is under the auspices of the Fripp Resort and is located at Camp Fripp near the Cabana Club. The Nature Center is open to all and has wildlife exhibits and educational resources. Staff Naturalists are available to answer questions. The center also offers a variety of programs for exploring nature on Fripp, available to members of the Club and their guests.