Sandbridge Beach is a quiet place, but if you look carefully, you’ll see a whole world of busy creatures going about their business. Thanks to Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Sandbridge Beach is home to hundreds of species of fish, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. Here are some of the animals you’ll love to look for during your stay.
Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin
Topping the list is the Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin. Dolphins are abundant at Sandbridge Beach, and are often seen from the beach or the pier. They like to swim in groups called pods, so if you see one, you’ll likely see several more. The best time to see dolphins at Sandbridge is between Memorial Day and Labor Day around sunrise and sunset.
Black bears are common to inland Virginia, but they can also be seen around Sandbridge Beach from time to time. Black bears aren’t aggressive, but if you happen to see one, give it plenty of room (and never feed them).
Gray foxes are small, about 2 or 3 feet long, and weigh about 8 pounds. They can be seen around Sandbridge Beach, especially in Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, but many people mistake them for small dogs at first. They’re shy, harmless, and smart, so they are fun animals to watch.
Bats are an essential part of the ecosystem at Sandbridge Beach, though they sometimes get a bad rap. In fact, bats are useful, gentle, smart, and can live up to 30 years. (They also have sweet little fuzzy faces.) Sandbridge is home to 5 kinds of bats, including big brown bats, evening bats, red bats, and Easter big-eared bats.
Our bats do us a favor by eating mosquitos and other flying insects. In fact, a single bat can eat up to 1,000mosquitos and cockroaches in one hour.
If you see a bat in Sandbridge Beach, it’s your opportunity to marvel at these helpful flying mammals instead of being afraid. Watch for them at sunset, especially near tall trees, piers, or bridges.
Speaking of flying, if you see a small mammal floating through the air — you’re not going crazy. Flying squirrels make Sandbridge Beach their home, and they are interesting to watch. They don’t really fly, though — instead, they jump from branches and spread their webbed arms out so they can glide on the air. They are primarily nocturnal, so keep an eye out for large guinea pig-like critters near sunset.
Sandbridge Beach has a unique population of rabbits called marsh rabbits. These cottontails are strong swimmers and are found on the coast. Marsh rabbits are much smaller than other rabbit species, so if you think you’re seeing a baby bunny, you’re probably looking at a marsh rabbit. Watch for these fuzzy creatures in the marsh or the dense brush at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
Small herds of deer can be spotted in or around False Cape State Park and in Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. In summer, deer tend to come out in the cooler evening and morning temperatures to eat, so watch for them alongside roads if you’re up early or headed to dinner after dark.
Bobcats are a bit of a mystery and a legend at Sandbridge Beach. A little larger than a housecat, bobcats are easily mistaken for stray cats in dim light or at night. They are sometimes sighted inside Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, but they’ve also been seen (and heard) near First Landing State Park.
Five kinds of sea turtles return to Sandbridge Beach to nest in the spring and summer: Loggerhead, Kemp’s ridley, green turtle, leatherback, and hawksbill turtles are all much-beloved visitors to our shores. Sea turtles are protected, so if you see a nest, keep children and dogs away from it.
So many frog species make their home at Sandbridge Beach that you can make a game out of seeing how many different kinds you can find on your vacation. Sandbridge frog species have fun names such as Narrow mouth frog, cricket frog, spring peeper, squirrel tree frog, spade foot toad, Upland chorus frog, and Southern leopard frog. Pick up a frog identification guide online or at your local bookstore and enjoy getting to know our slippery friends.
Salamanders are so plentiful at Sandbridge Beach that you probably won’t need to look for them. These little creatures eat their weight in bugs hundreds of times over every day; so if you see one, let it go on its way.
Sandbridge Beach is an animal (and reptile) lover’s paradise. Whether you make a special trip to Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge or just take in your surroundings from the beach or water, our animal residents will be a memorable part of your vacation.