The beginning of May marks the start of loggerhead sea turtle nesting season here in South Carolina. From now until October, female turtles will make their way out of the ocean and to the dunes, where they dig a nest and lay their eggs. A loggerhead sea turtle will lay around 120 eggs that will then incubate for around two months, 55 to 60 days until they emerge to make their journey back to the ocean. Volunteer groups throughout the Grand Strand make a great effort to protect these turtles, their eggs, and babies throughout the turtle season. Groups will patrol daily throughout the season looking for nests and ensuring they aren’t disturbed.
While still somewhat uncommon to see, the loggerheads are the ones most often seen by residents and visitors as the other sea turtles that visit South Carolina shores, including the leatherback sea turtle, are endangered. By contrast, the loggerhead sea turtle is considered ’threatened.’ Those who have been lucky enough to witness the trek these tiny turtles make from nest back to ocean know how special these amazing animals are. And while you may not be an official turtle volunteer, there are plenty of ways everyday beachgoers can help:
- Turn off outdoor lights visible from the beach from dusk until dawn during turtle season
- Close shades or curtains on windows to shield indoor light that can be seen from the ocean
- Never shine lights on a sea turtle or take flash photography
- Do not disturb a nesting sea turtle. Observe from a distance.
- Fill in any holes dug on the beach at the end of the day as turtles can get trapped in them
- Remove tents, chairs and other items from the beach and dunes at the end of the day
We have regular turtle patrol volunteers in our neighborhood who spotted one of the first nests of the season for the Grand Strand. And another neighbor who was paddleboarding far offshore the other day remarked that he saw the most turtles he’s ever seen off our coastline. Which means if we’re lucky, we should be seeing lots of turtle babies in a couple of months!
If you love sea turtles and are interested in learning more there are two places I would check out. The first is Ripley’s Aquarium at Broadway at the Beach. Ripley’s is home to Gabby the green sea turtle and is a great resource for learning more about all of our area’s sea turtles. The second is Myrtle Beach State Park or Huntington Beach State Park, which both often host different turtle education programs and are usually home to a couple of sea turtle nests themselves! Lastly, if you happen to witness a sea turtle nesting while you’re on your vacation, you can reach out to South Carolina United Turtle Enthusiasts (S.C.U.T.E.) on Facebook, as they keep turtle nest inventories throughout the season.