Wildlife & Habitat
A rich natural resource and one of the most productive environments on earth, Cape Romain is a haven for wildlife. Over 293 species of birds can be found on the refuge, with concentrations of seabirds, shorebirds, wading birds, waterfowl, and raptors. In addition, over 24 types of reptiles, 12 varieties of amphibians, and over 36 species of mammals have been recorded on the refuge.
Loggerhead Sea Turtles
Cape Romain's remote barrier islands are crucial to the protection of the threatened loggerhead sea turtle and support the largest nesting population of loggerhead sea turtles outside of the state of Florida. Learn More about the refuge turtle project…Learn More
The Sewee Visitor and Environmental Education Center is home to six endangered red wolves— two adult female sisters, one breeding pair, and two male pups born in April 2014. For regular updates on the pups, visit our Facebook Page. Learn More about the endangered red wolf…Learn More
Cape Romain boasts the largest nesting rookery for brown pelicans, terns, and gulls on the South Carolina Coast and harbors the largest wintering population of American oystercatchers on the east coast. While in the refuge, you may spot bald eagles, endangered wood storks, and— during the summer season— migratory birds such as the roseate spoonbill and painted bunting. On Bulls Island, you may also find American alligators, black fox squirrels, and white-tailed deer.
Salt Marsh Estuaries and Brackish Wetlands
Wetlands help maintain healthy water resources by aiding in flood prevention, pollution removal, and groundwater replenishment. Wetlands also provide habitat for a very diverse range of plant, fish, and wildlife species. In the past, wetlands were considered “wastelands” and were often drained and filled for agriculture and human development. Protection and management of wetlands, such as the salt marshes, estuaries, and freshwater wetlands around Cape Romain, is crucial to keep the surrounding water resources healthy and to provide valuable habitat for wildlife and valuable recreational opportunities for people.
Maritime forests include a blend of older trees like live oaks, shrubs, and other vegetation like palmettos. Often cooler and more sheltered than surrounding habitats, maritime forests are home to many species of wildlife, including white-tailed deer, songbirds, and many reptiles and amphibians like skinks and glass lizards. The roots of plants and the more developed soil in maritime forests hold the sand in place, helping to prevent erosion and provide stability in coastal areas. Protecting maritime forests helps protect the refuge islands from damaging floods and storms.
Barrier Island Beaches
Beaches and dunes, often carpeted in a layer of sea oats and colorful verbenas, play a role in erosion control and protection of inland areas by mitigating storm surge. Beaches also provide critical nesting habitat for many species, including several listed as endangered or threatened like the piping plover and loggerhead sea turtles. Cape Romain’s beaches, including the beautiful “Boneyard Beach” strewn with ancient and sun-bleached oaks, cedars, and pines, are especially important for the birds and turtles dependent upon the habitat.
Page Photo Credits American Oystercatchers, Photo Credit: Ed Pivorun, Loggerhead Hatchling, Photo Credit: Laura Smith, Red Wolf, Photo Credit: Ben Sumrell, Roseate Spoonbill, Photo Credit: Wil Christenson, Bulls Island Marsh, Photo Credit: Olga Caballero, Bulls Island Maritime Forest, Photo Credit: Steve Hillebrand, Bulls Island Beach, Photo Credit: Ricky Wrenn
Last Updated: Sep 17, 2015