St. John is home to some incredible wildlife, both on land and in the ocean! On any given day in St. John, you can see bananaquits, donkeys, iguanas, mongoose, pelicans, sea turtles, starfish, octopus, deer and even dolphins (we spotted a pod of 5 in Cruz Bay last week!). A few local animals are described below, with tips on where to spot them on St. John:
Donkeys: Donkeys were brought to St. John in the 16th century to work on the sugar plantations. When slavery ended and the plantations closed, the donkeys were freed and have since become wild inhabitants of the island, roaming around.
Where to spot: Generally, you can always see a donkey on the road from Cruz Bay to Coral Bay. Groups can also be seen at Caneel Bay, along the Lind Point Trail, Honeymoon and often at Cinnamon Bay.
Bananaquits: These cute black and yellow birds live on nectar and fruit, and can often be seen in flowering trees and shrubs. Despite its name, it does not eat bananas! They are also locally referred to as “sugar birds” or “bananakeets.” It’s also the territory bird of the US Virgin Islands!
Where to spot: Look for flowering plants or bird feeders around the island. Be patient and you’re sure to see one!
Sea Turtles: These majestic ocean inhabitants love the pristine waters of St. John. We have 3 types of turtles on St. John: Leatherback, Green Turtle and Hawksbill. Green and Hawksbill are the most common on St. John, with Green turtles reaching almost 40 inches and the Hawkbill being a bit smaller, with the largest reaching about 25 inches.
Where to spot: Snorkeling in Maho Bay is sure to result in a sea turtle sighting! The nearby Francis beach is also a great place to see them. Make sure to never touch sea turtles, or chase them around
Mongoose: A mongoose is a light brown, weasel-like animal with short legs and small rounded ears. They are a non-native species, brought to the Virgin Islands in the 1800’s to control rat populations on sugar plantations. They also are known for their ability to kill snakes.
Where to spot: They can be found scurrying in bushes, and often spotted around the beaches like Cinnamon Bay.
Starfish: Seeing a starfish is always exciting! The most common here are the red fusion stars or West Indian Sea Star. It has five thick broad arms with a hard surface covered with tiny blunt spiens. They can range in color from red, orange and yellowish brown and are stunning to see. If you find one, you’ll often see a few!
Where to spot: Waterlemon Cay in Leinster Bay is known for it’s starfish bed and sighting them here is fairly common. Starfish also love to be in sea grass, so areas that are grassy are a good place to look (Fish Bay, parts of Maho Bay are also good). When looking for them, you may also spot conch!
What animals did you spot on your vacation? Tag them on social media using #destinationSTJ!