South Carolina Celebrates First Sea Turtle Nest Hatching of the Season
And they're off!
That's right: The state's first known sea turtle nest of the summer hatched on Kiawah Island over the weekend.
The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) told The Post and Courier that volunteers with the island's Turtle Patrol discovered dozens of tiny loggerhead sea turtle tracks leading from the beach to the ocean early Saturday morning.
Michelle Pate, a SCDNR sea turtle biologist, said that the nest was laid on May 6 and incubated for 66 days.
"It was neck and neck with the possibility that a Seabrook Nest would fully emerge first, but the accolade goes to Kiawah this year," Pate added.
Beginning in May, four species of sea turtles come ashore to lay eggs on South Carolina beaches. After two months of incubation, sea turtle hatchlings typically begin to surface at night, when temperatures are cooler, and predators are easier to elude.
Pate and other officials urged beachgoers and beachfront property owners to keep lights off the beach at night.
"From dusk until dawn, you can help hatchling sea turtles survive their journey to the ocean by turning off all beach-facing lights, closing blinds and drapes on ocean-facing windows and avoiding flashlight and flash photography use on the beach," SCDNR urged its followers on Facebook.
Female sea turtles will continue nesting on South Carolina beaches for about two more months. At this point, about halfway through nesting season, staff and volunteers have counted around 4,200 nests. This year comes on the heels of 2019's record-breaking nesting season, in which approximately 525,500 baby turtles emerged from 8,857 nests.
As hatching season ramps up, remember to respect sea turtles by observing them from a distance. Interfering with sea turtles or their nests can be subject to civil penalties of up to $25,000 and up to a year's imprisonment.
Report all sick/injured/dead sea turtles and nest disturbances to the SCDNR at 1 (800) 922-5431.
Godspeed little turtles!