The abundance of wildlife is an important part of what makes our region special. And it's up to us to look out for the many species that populate our waterways, woods and backyards.
There are a few things we and our visitors should be doing right now to that end.
First, follow the S.C. Department of Natural Resources' recent suggestion to not feed or water manatees. Sure, it makes for a cute picture or a momentary thrill for the human feeder. But the practice alters the animals' behavior and encourages them to linger around populated marinas to be fed again. There, they're easy targets for boats. Two were killed near Hilton Head Island last year that we know of. In 2012, a pregnant one was killed.
True animal lovers will be content with a quick view of the animals and the knowledge that they're heading for deeper waters for a meal.
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The same approach should be followed regarding alligators. Like manatees, alligators that are fed by humans may start approaching humans for more food, according to wildlife specialists.
That's dangerous for humans. And it's no good for the alligators that will be captured and killed if such behavior is observed. Let's give the alligators the space they need and appreciate them from a safe distance.
As the state's seventh annual alligator hunting season is about to begin, some are raising concerns that we may be hunting and killing too many gators. We should not exacerbate the problem by luring alligators into behavior that could doom them.
And lastly, May to mid-August is when loggerhead sea turtles prepare their seaside nests and lay eggs. Hatchlings emerging from the nests rely on the blue and green wavelengths of ligt reflected off the ocean to guide them safely to the ocean. Lights on land can lead them in the wrong direction.
Follow Hilton Head Island and Beaufort County ordinances by turning off or covering up lights that can be seen from the beach from 10 p.m. to dawn. It's an easy way to make sure these little guys make it safely to their new home in the sea.
There are other ways to help nesting turtles and their hatchlings too. Pick up litter you spot on the beach. Fill in sand holes and smooth sand castles. Leave nests undisturbed. And don't shine flashlights or take flash photographs of nesting turtles.
They're little actions. But done collectively by all, we become the wildlife stewards this region so desperately needs and that these animals depend upon.