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  • alligator and turtles

Our Animal Neighbors

Meet the residents of the Sea Island Nature Center.

By: ASHLEY RYAN

A visit to the Sea Island Nature Center is one of the best ways to get up close and personal with the animals that live in this area. The Nature Center is located at the Sea Island Beach Club and gives members and guests the chance to explore species that are native to the Georgia coast in a welcoming, exciting and educational way. From meeting the wildlife and learning about their habits to enjoying immersive programming, there is so much to see and do at this popular wildlife playground. Meet some of the main residents and fan favorites.

corn snake

Cob is a corn snake that lives at the Sea Island Nature Center.

COB
Cob is a friendly, bright orange corn snake with a black and white pattern on his belly that aids in camouflaging. Cob is nonvenomous like all of the Nature Center’s snakes. At around 4 years old, he is not yet full-grown, so those returning year after year can watch him continue to grow. “Kids often ask why he likes to hide under his rock enclosure,” says Haley Rogers, lead naturalist at Sea Island. “This is because snakes are cold-blooded and must regulate their temperature by basking in the sun or hiding in the shade.

SIMON AND SATILLA
These 3-year-old American alligators came to the Sea Island Nature Center as tiny hatchlings and have grown to be a couple feet long. They are named for St. Simons Island and the Satilla River. Still rather young, they have classic yellow and tan stripes on their scales for camouflage purposes, and guests are often invited to touch their skin and tail. “Eventually, they’ll outgrow their home here in our Nature Center and move to a larger center in Florida,” Rogers notes.

 

alligator and turtles

From top left to bottom right: Simon, Carlton and Terry.

CARLTON
Adorned in vivid orange and red hues, the Nature Center’s Eastern box turtle, Carlton, is a stunning sight to behold. At 9 years old, this land-dwelling creature has been at the resort for most of his life, where he spends his time munching on fruits and veggies and interacting with guests. “His favorite snacks are tomatoes and bananas,” says Rogers. “When the Camp Cloister kids visit the Nature Center, we often let them feed Carlton and watch him emerge from his shell.” The species is named for a hinge on the belly side of the shell that allows these turtles to box up for protection against predators. “He’s very different from a lot of the other animals in the Nature Center because the majority of our species are aquatic,” Rogers adds.

 

TERRY AND PENNY
These small diamondback terrapin turtles — about the size of the palm of a hand — have comparatively large jaws, speckled skin and ring patterns on their shells. While sea turtles live exclusively in saltwater, the diamond terrapin turtles spend most of their time in brackish water, so they’re often found in the salt marsh wetlands where they feast on shrimp, mollusks and bivalves. “They’re rare in nature, and their population is in decline, so it’s a really unique experience to get to see them and even potentially touch them here at the Nature Center,” Rogers adds. Both of these turtles are upwards of 6 years old, though the Nature Center is also home to two other younger terrapin turtles, giving guests the chance to see them at different stages of life.

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL

These popular Sea Island Nature Center programs offer more in-depth looks at each of its residents.

 

Coastal Encounters: This 45-minute program for all ages gives families the chance to meet the Sea Island Nature Center residents. “We offer a presentation about the different ecosystems of the Georgia barrier islands and we’ll take out many of the animals at the center,” explains Haley Rogers, lead naturalist at Sea Island.

 

Sea Island Junior Naturalist: Children ages 7 to 14 can learn about local wildlife through the resort’s Junior Naturalist program. First, they visit theNature Center to meet the animals. “Then, they are taken on an adventure around the island to all the best wildlife viewing spots,” Rogers notes. They often visit the beach or marsh with tools like shelling bags or microscopes to learn more.

 

Birding Tour: The tour begins at the Nature Center, where visitors of all ages can explore and interact. Next, members and guests set off, binoculars in hand, to view birds around the island. “Fall and winter are fantastic times of year to go birding,” Rogers says, adding that some species you may see include osprey, brown pelicans, bald eagles, piping plovers and great horned owl.