by Hailey Gibbins
Wildlife will forever fascinate me. A good friend of mine was always telling me about her experience at Horry Georgetown Technical College during our nature walks and photography sessions. She told me she was majoring in wildlife management and explained some of the classes required to get her associate’s degree in this field of work. I was eager to learn what she was learning and immediately enrolled for the following spring.
Come my second year at Tech, it was time for me to find an internship for the upcoming summer and test my knowledge. I reached out to Gillie Croft who is working on his master’s degree at Clemson University and was conducting research under the Nemours Wildlife Foundation. A printed email on the cork board above the water fountain stated he needed two interns to help check duck boxes (artificial nests) located on properties within the Santee Delta. I was ecstatic when I received a call from Gillie a few weeks later welcoming me into the experience. We would start in February.
Summer of 2017 is one I will never forget. Not only did I work with waterfowl, but I also (and am currently) working with the Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center. Both internships have handed me more wildlife experience than I could ask for — I’ve fallen in love with the friendly black-bellied whistling duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis) and its iconic dog toy squeak of a whistle. I have handled more yellow rat snakes (E. obsoleta quandrivittata) this past summer than I have in my entire life. In fact, I had never bothered a snake before this internship because snakes terrified me.
“It’s interested how many animals will make a box made of wood their home,” Gillie once told me. And it’s true, I have opened the box to see a mother owl laying with her three eggs, fast asleep. I have also witnessed a male and female Southern flying squirrel (Glaucomys volans) leap from the box and onto a tree after I knocked.
Most of the boxes are located in swampy cypress forests, prime habitat for wood ducks (Aix sponsa). By the end of the nesting and hatching season in late August, I started my internship with Yawkey. The Yawkey Wildlife Center is an awesome place to gain hands-on experience building drift fences and collect inventory of loggerhead sea turtle nests on the private North Island and Sandy Island. I am currently interning with the Yawkey Wildlife Center until I reach my required hours to pass the class.
All my thanks goes out to the professors of Horry Georgetown Technical College and the friend who provoked me to begin this fascinating journey. Thank you.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on South Carolina Wild are solely those of the authors, and do not reflect official policies, positions, or endorsements of activity or products by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.