SOUTH CAROLINA (WBTW) – Sea turtles have been making nests about a week earlier than usual this year. So far, there have been more than 3,600 nests reported in South Carolina, according to seaturtle.org.
Cape Island, South Carolina, currently has 839 reported nests, the largest number in the state. Cape Island is located within the Cape Romain Wildlife Refuge.
DeBordieu Beach in Georgetown County has 26 nests, which is the most reported nests locally. All of those nests are still incubating.
Myrtle Beach has seen 15 nests so far.
It takes about 50 days for eggs to hatch.
Most of the turtles sighted were loggerheads – 3,617 of them were reported, to be exact. That’s compared to a total of six reported green and Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles.
Although the numbers seem large, the turtles had to overcome some adversity. It takes about 35 years for a loggerhead sea turtle to reach sexual maturity in order to reproduce, and even if they manage to survive that long, predators are on the hunt for their eggs.
This year, 102 nests in South Carolina have been destroyed due to coyotes, raccoons and ghost crabs preying on them. Humans also have some habits and behaviors that can negatively impact nesting turtles.
Pawleys Island is home to the South Carolina United Turtle Enthusiasts (SCUTE), who help track and protect sea turtles and their nests on our local beaches.
SCUTE has a few tips on the town’s website that can help the sea turtles be successful in nesting.
• Do not leave belongings or trash on the beach. Tents and chairs should be taken down because turtles can become entangled in them. Balloons and plastics are especially dangerous because turtles often mistake them for their favorite food, jellyfish.
• Fill in holes in the sand that you or your children dig. Also, turtles could fall and get trapped in them.
• Turn lights off at night. Artificial light disorients babies and discourages mothers from laying eggs. Turn off all outdoor lights, and close curtains and blinds to prevent light from reaching the beach. Even flashlights cause problems for turtles.
• Do not disturb nesting turtles or nests. You can watch quietly from the distance, but do not use flash photography. Disturbing sea turtles is punishable under federal law.
If you encounter a turtle on the beach, keep others away and call SCUTE leaders for assistance.