Family Travel 2011

Megan Sexton



Enjoy the beach -- but keep an eye out for turtles

Posted 5/1/2012 5:18:00 AM

It's getting to be prime beach time -- for turtles, too.

Loggerhead nesting season runs from May through October. During this time, nests are laid on barrier islands throughout South Carolina. It's the time when female turtles come out of the ocean and make their way to the dunes, where they lay their eggs in nests. The turtles lay nests from May through mid-August, with each nest having about 120 eggs. The eggs incubate for 55 to 60 days, and the babies emerge from July through October.

Protecting these turtles has become a labor of love for folks along the coast, with volunteer groups patrolling the beachfront each day, searching for nests and making sure they aren't disturbed. Loggerheads are one of four types of sea turtles that visit South Carolina; three are endangered and the Loggerhead is considered in the threatened stage.

We were fortunate last summer to watch two baby loggerheads emerge from their nest on Pawleys Island, helped along on their journey by SCUTE -- South Carolina United Turtle Enthusiasts.

Once you see the struggle these tiny, amazing creatures face trying to make the journey from the dunes to the waves, you'll want to do whatever you can to make their chances of survival better. And there are ways beachgoers can help.

The S.C. Aquarium in Charleston has a terrific sea turtle rescue program. Keep up with news from its Sea Turtle Hospital here.

Here are some tips from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources to help Loggerheads: Turn off all exterior lights visible from the beach, from dusk until dawn, from May through October; close blinds and drapes on windows to shield interior lights that can be seen from the beach or ocean; don't shine lights on a sea turtle or take flash photography; do not disturb a nesting sea turtle and observer her only from a distance; fill in large holes dug on the beach at the end of the day because adult and baby turtles can get trapped in them; remove tents, chairs and other items from the beach and dunes at the end of the day.

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Marine Turtle Conservation Program is responsible for managing and protecting sea turtles in the state of South Carolina, and its website
offers up-to-date links
on nest numbers, hatchlings and locations.