May 19 2014

Sea Turtle Nesting Season

It’s turtle-time again on Edisto Beach.

May marks the beginning of the loggerhead turtle nesting season for South Carolina’s many barrier islands. That means female loggerheads will be making their way onto the shore to deposit their eggs now through August.

The turtles slowly crawl out of the water and far away from the water line so they can begin the process of digging a nest. Using their strong back legs, female loggerheads dig until a pit is created that is deep enough to safely ensconce their eggs. Once the last egg is laid, the turtle will cover all of the eggs with sand, smooth the area with her shell, fling sand around to disguise any sign of her nest, and then crawl back down the beach and into the water.

It takes about two months for the eggs to mature into hatchlings. Once the hatchlings are ready to greet the world, they dig out of the nest and make their way to the water. The hatchlings are guided by the moonlight that reflects off of the water, which is why it is so important to keep all artificial lights off during turtle season.

Any form of artificial light (this can be light from street lamps, headlights, flashlights, cell phones, and lights on or in buildings and houses) can cause the hatchlings to crawl in the wrong direction. Hatchlings that do not make it to the water are often eaten by sea birds or other predators, especially if they are still on the beach once the sun has risen.

To make sure Edisto Island’s sea turtles can go about their nesting season without any interruption, remember these tips:

  • All lights on the beach must be turned off May 1 through Oct. 31 by dusk.
  • If lights from your beach house are visible on the beach, close all drapes by dusk.
  • Never move turtle eggs or disturb a nest.
  • If you dig holes in the sand or create a moat for a sandcastle, fill in the sand before leaving the beach. Holes present unnecessary obstacles for the sea turtles.
  • Do not approach a nesting sea turtle, eggs, or hatchlings.
  • Hatchlings do not need your help reaching the water. If you happen upon hatchlings making their way to the water, remember not to touch them or interfere in any way.
  • Loggerheads are protected by local, state, and federal laws.
  • Remove all toys, chairs, umbrellas, and anything else that you’ve brought to the beach for the day before leaving.

To report a turtle stranding, nest disturbance, or any potential problems call Edisto Beach Town Hall at 843-869-2505 ext 212

Bob Hart Author

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