Watch for Turtles on South Carolina Beaches

By:Megan Sexton

Date:5/1/2012

loggerhead sea turtle hatchling
Loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings can sometimes be spotted on South Carolina beaches from July through October.

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 Isla​nd, helped along on their journey by SCUTE -- South Carolin​a 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. Aquar​ium in Cha​rleston has a terrific sea turtle rescue program. Keep up with news from its Sea Turtle Ho​sp​ital 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, 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 web​site offers up-to-date information on nest numbers, hatchlings and locations.

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