South Carolina RFI

Hello, all. I am new to mammal watching and this site.

I am going to southeast South Carolina in mid-June this year (I will be based on Hilton Head Island), and although primarily a birding trip and also a trip to see family, I would like to see a few mammals while there. I have a list below of ones I would like to try to see; and I wondered if anyone could point me to the best time of day and location for each one, and the likelihood of seeing it at that time and location. Preferably the locations would be as close as possible to Hilton Head Island.

Nine-banded Armadillo

Bobcat–I know they are on Kiawah Island in a high density. Can someone give me more specific info?

Marsh Rabbit

Spotted Skunk


Eastern River Otter

Any bat roosts, although I am particularly interested in seeing Rafinesque’s big-eared bat and Southeastern Myotis.

Strand feeding Bottlenose Dolphins

All help is appreciated greatly.




  • Vladimir Dinets

    I don’t know much about Hilton Head, but on the mainland, armadillos should be easy to find at night by listening for rustling sounds in forests, and marsh rabbits are common at dusk at swamp forest edges. Rafinesque’s big-eared bats often roost in abandoned houses in the forest and large hollow trees, particularly if the opening is large and low above ground, like in swamp tupelos and cypresses.

    • Goldeneagle754

      Thanks for the tips! I have a couple of follow-up questions: I’m surprised a marsh rabbit would be in a swamp. Would a “swamp forest edge” be the edge of any swamp, or a particular type, or a marsh edge as well?

      As far as bats go, would
      be a good choice?

      What exact types of forest could produce an armadillo? Maritime forest, swamp forest, longleaf pine forest, and pine savannah are all found in the hilton head area.

      On a more general scale, what exact time in relation to sunrise or sunset is best to search for any of these animals?



      • Vladimir Dinets

        I used “swamp forest” is a generic term for seasonally flooded forest of any kind. But any wetland habitat with lots of shrubbery should also have them.
        That Audubon sanctuary looks like great habitat, but can you get in late enough? Watch also for Seminole and yellow bats (look for droppings on the boardwalk under clumps of Spanish moss).
        Armadillos can live in any type of forest, but they are easier to find in places with lots of dry leaves, so dry deciduous forests are the best. They also live in larger city parks.
        For marsh rabbits, the best time is from one hour before sunset/sunrise to one hour after; more in overcast weather. Armadillos are active all night.

  • Kerry Nelson

    Sorry if this double posts, don’t think my last reply went through for some reason.

    I live in Savannah, so if you have any further questions or want to meet up while you’re in the area feel free to email me. As for your target species:

    – Armadillo should be very easy. I see them often enough that I’ve never had to really put much thought into where or how to find them. Vladimir’s advice is good, I think just about anywhere you go looking for other species you’ll be in good shape, even while birding.

    – Marsh Rabbit seem to go through boom and bust cycles, and this year hasn’t been outstanding for them, but checking salt marsh edges or swamp forests as mentioned should be productive, evening or morning is best, as with most things. Marshy edges of roads and trails on Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge would be a good place to start, as close as you can get to Hilton Head without actually being on the island.

    – River Otter are kind of scattered all over, but lately I’ve had good luck with them along the forested section of the Tupelo Trail on Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, where it parallels Vernezobre Creek. They can also be seen at the Kingfisher Pond end of the trail. Early morning seems best, but because the refuge closes at sunset I’ve never really tried looking much at dusk.

    – Mink are sporadic along the coast, I feel like I’ve seen them once or twice at the docks of the Bluffton Oyster Company, but since I’m usually just there picking up oysters I haven’t put the time in to see how common they actually are. Best place for them in the region I’m aware of is the vicinity of the docks for the Sapelo Island ferry, 90 minutes south of HHI in Georgia. If you head that way, Harris Neck NWR has a huge Wood Stork rookery this time of year, and armadillos are fairly abundant throughout.

    – Spotted Skunk are rare enough as to not be worth targeting. I know very few people who’ve seen even one in Georgia or SC, and historically the best spot was hours away in the mountains.

    – Don’t know of any bat roosts offhand, but Rafinesque’s can be found by checking inside of large hollow cypress trees.

    – A few companies offer dolphin spotting tours in the region, calling them to see if they have any reliable spots to view strand feeding would be my first try. I’ve seen it a few times, even right off my dock, but never the same place twice, so I don’t know how predictable it is.

    – Bobcat are seen with some frequency along the dikes of the Savannah NWR, and the staff and volunteers at the visitors center usually have a good handle on where and when they’re turning up (although they generally don’t know as much about the sections away from the main wildlife drive, as far fewer people visit those areas and report back). June isn’t the best time, but if you’re already going to visit for otters or birds it’s worth checking on. In the summer I most often see them opportunistically while driving back roads herping, maybe a half dozen a year, but if you tried spotlighting you may have better luck.

    • Goldeneagle754

      Hello, Kerry. Thanks for these tips. As I am planning my trip, and filling the limited time I have, I will take your tips into account. In total, I’ve received imput from a lot of people from various different wildlife RFIs. I don’t think I’ll be able to make the drive to Sapelo for Mink, but I should be able to implement some of your other suggestions. Given that I already plan to go out at night for Chuck-Will’s widows and for possible owls, don’t think my family will be up for any more night outings. I will probably go to both to both Savannah NWR and Pinckney in the morning, but we’ll see if I am able to go early enough to find any targets. I’ll certainly try 🙂

      I have already booked two Hilton Head dolphin tours, so while I probably won’t see strand feeding, I guess I could maybe if I were lucky, and I will certainly see good views of dolphins!

      Someone on the carolinabirds listserv pointed me to a place at Bear Island WMA (I’m going there for birds anyways) where apparently there are bats, but they don’t know what type. Oh well; all types are neat!

      Thanks again,


  • Kerry Nelson

    Almost forgot, if you’re going to make the drive to Sapelo for Mink, check the tides – that matters far more than time of day. Low tide and a couple hours either side of is the only time you have a chance, when they come down the banks. At high tide, they stay in the Spartina and you’d need insane amounts of luck to kick one up.

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