Kiawah sets aside more land to keep its cats wild

Thirty or more bobcats are known to be on Kiawah Island. Habitats have been conserved for them as the resort island develops.

KIAWAH ISLAND — Bobcats haunt this gated resort island, and they just got a little more room to spirit around.

Nearly 15 acres have been given to the Kiawah Conservancy or put under conservation easement by Kiawah Development Partners, the island’s master developer. The gifts add to more than 300 acres set aside for about three dozen wild cats known to live and roam across the barrier island’s 7,000 acres.

The protected acreage is a signature of the place. The commitment of its residents to keeping the place natural is strong enough that 60 percent of the acreage is privately owned. The cats tend to be nocturnal, secretive and camouflaged. But they are enough at home with people to show up on golf fairways and driveways, under verandas and even outside the glass door to Town Hall.

The new acres previously were identified by GPS tracking as critical “buffer” habitat to give the cats cover and travel routes, said Justin Core, conservancy land preservation coordinator. They include acres on Marsh Island Park, in the Osprey Point and Ocean Course Drive natural areas.

Bobcats are found throughout South Carolina, but are thought to be abundant in the coastal plain, where the heavy forest gives them cover and prey, according to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. The size of a small dog, they look like large domestic cats. But with the feral eyes, the black lined and spotted fur, they are unmistakable as wild animals.

They are named for their snub, seemingly cut-off or “bobbed” tails. They are one of those alpha creatures whose presence signals a healthy ecosystem.

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