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Kiawah is a unique place where wildlife encounters happen on a daily basis. From dolphins strand feeding at Captain Sam’s, a large male alligator bellowing off Turtle Point, to a Red-Tailed Hawk stalking prey in the dunes just beyond the Sanctuary; wildlife encounters have become intrinsic to the Kiawah experience.
After nearly 20 years on Kiawah, I have a lifetime of indelible encounters. However, earlier this summer in the maritime forest just west of the Sanctuary was an unforgettable moment. Driving down Sea Forest Drive in the middle of the afternoon, I caught a glimpse of a bobcat attempting to cross the road. As I slowed, she turned back but stopped just inside the thicket of briars. I pulled over and went back to get a better look. She took a few more steps deeper into the forest, but to my surprise, did not make the typical sprint out of sight. Camera in hand, I climbed over poison ivy and thorny dewberry and quietly made my way into a clearing. Maintaining a distance, I sat behind a palmetto tree and began filming. She appeared at ease with my presence and began carefully grooming herself followed by intermittent yawns. Occasionally I attempted to move closer but when my approach became uncomfortable to her, she turned away and walked a few yards back into the wax myrtles, which gave her more cover. After nearly an hour, I backed out of the forest to give this beautiful animal her space.
I noticed this particular cat was collared, so I contacted our Town Biologist, Jim Jordan. By providing him with the date and time of our encounter, we were able to determine that she was #600. Weighing 14lbs., 10 oz., she was an adult female originally collared on December 8, 2010, near the River Course. Her G.P.S. signature reveals she was a frequent guest at the Sanctuary.
Less than two months after my encounter in the forest, I received an email from our Town Biologist; Female #600 was found dead, she was struck by a car near the Kiawah Island Parkway. My heart sank.
With an island teaming with wildlife, the occasional collision between an automobile and a deer, fox, opossum or bobcat is inevitable. Kiawah has created a haven where the line between humans and the surrounding ecosystem becomes blurred. Please remember when traveling by car, obey the posted speed limit and be aware of the diverse wildlife with which we share this island.