Dolphin spotting season has returned! The water temperature is quickly warming up. With the current temp of 64 degrees Fahrenheit, the dolphins have been more active, which means they have also been more curious! Our dolphins on Hilton Head have never been skittish around boats, however with the warmer weather and warmer water they have been more active and more playful, getting much closer to boats! This is an awesome experience for dolphin watchers! It is important to remember that while they are so close you could probably touch them, this doesn't mean you should. Nor does it mean you should feed them. This is actually illegal and can be punished by a $2,500 fine. Don't be fooled by those cute smiling faces! They are avid hunters and have no problem catching food for themselves!
While Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins (the Hilton Head dolphins) don't have a specific breeding season, we have been seeing more baby dolphins, or calves recently. This is great news for us! Seeing calves mean that our dolphins are happy and healthy! We have 200-300 residential dolphins around the waters of Hilton Head. This means they are here all year round, even in the winter! In addition to them, we have about 400-600 nomadic dolphins that pass through or take a Hilton Head vacation of their own.
If you do happen to go out on a dolphin watching tour while you're here, look for strand feeding! Strand feeding is a way of hunting where the adult dolphins throw themselves up on a muddy bank (oyster-free) and push fish up on land. While they are basically stranding themselves, they also make it so the fish have nowhere to go. This makes for a good meal and luckily our dolphins are talented athletes, who are very good at wiggling back into the water. It takes a lot of strength to strand feed, so the younger dolphins typically just stay back and watch. Also, calves stay with their mothers for the first 2-3 years of their lives so until they build up the muscles and the confidence to strand feed, they have their mothers taking care of them.
When you come to Hilton Head Island for you vacation this year, be sure to climb on a boat and introduce yourself to our dolphins! They will love to meet you!