S.C. wildlife officials locate first sea turtle nests of season
CHARLESTON AND GEORGETOWN COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Biologists with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources identified the first two sea turtle nests of the new nesting season.
The nests were discovered on Tuesday just one day after the official opening of nesting season.
This is the second year in a row that nests have been located on the second day of nesting season.
One nest was located in the Cape Romain National Wildlife Rescue on North Cape Island, and the second was found on South Island in the Yawkey Wildlife Center.
Officials say the two areas are home to the densest nesting of sea turtles but nests are found all across the coast.
Loggerhead turtle nests have been trending up over the past decade, but SCDNR Biologist Michelle Pate says the numbers aren’t where they need to be just yet.
“We’re optimistic, but nest numbers have not reached Loggerhead Recovery Plan benchmarks, and the species is not out of the woods just yet,” Pate said. “Long-term monitoring of these long-lived species needs to continue to ensure current management continues to work.”
Loggerheads are generally the heaviest nesters in the state, but three other species also nest on South Carolina beaches. Greens, Kemp’s ridleys and leatherbacks all make their nests on beaches in the Palmetto State. The four species are classified as endangered or threatened and are protected.
The average sea turtle nest contains 120 eggs and hatch in about 60 days. A nesting female can lay up to six nests per season.
SCDNR has the following tips for beachgoers during nesting season:
- Report all sick/injured/dead sea turtles and nest disturbances to the SCDNR at 1-800-922-5431 so that staff/volunteers can respond as soon as possible.
- Respect boating laws and boat cautiously, especially in small tidal creeks where sea turtles like to feed. Boat strikes have emerged as the leading cause of death for sea turtles in South Carolina.
- Keep artificial lights off the beach at night during nesting season – this includes beachfront property lights and flash photography, which can disorient nesting mothers and hatchlings.
- Always respect sea turtles by observing them from a distance on the beach. Individuals that violate federal law by harming or 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.
- Keep beaches and oceans clean by avoiding single-use plastics. Plastic bags and balloons are among the most common trash items found on South Carolina beaches and can cause injury or death when sea turtles mistake them for food.
- Promote and support the continued conservation of sea turtles in South Carolina.
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