Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Volunteers Monitor Sea Turtle Nesting Season

Seabrook Island Turtle Patrol at work on June 3
Sea Turtle body pit found on June 3 at dawn
All along the Southeast Coast sea turtles are making a return to the beaches where they were hatched. These gentle giants of the ocean are beloved by the public, and each barrier island has a team of volunteers that takes daily surveys at dawn for signs of nesting. June 16 is recognized as World Sea Turtle Day and heading into early July it is possible that some of the first nests of the year can hatch out, and turtle teams can see some results after so many mornings of dawn patrol.
The first loggerhead sea turtle nest of 2016 in South Carolina was recorded at the Cape Romaine National Wildlife Refuge on May 5. Preliminary data for 2016 shows that Edisto Beach State Park recorded the second nest for S.C. on May 7. Since it takes roughly 60 days for turtle eggs to hatch, the first nests of 2016 are coming due. The familiar Lights Out For Turtle campaign runs from May 1 – October 31 to encompass the entire summer plus the time required for hatchlings to disperse.

Gloved hands and training allow the
Turtle Ladies to move the nest eggs
On June 3 the Seabrook Island Turtle Patrol had a busy day with two loggerhead crawls resulting in two new nests, number 15 and 16 respectively. I was on the beach at dawn that fateful day near boardwalk nine when the turtle patrol ladies identified the crawl tracks. Veteran turtle volunteer Judy Morr took her time to survey the nesting imprints, since it was her job to probe the sand and determine if she laid eggs, or just walked away in what is commonly called a false crawl. Her probing stick found the nest (#16), but the day’s work was not done since the nest was deemed as vulnerable to high tides, and so an excavation occurred and 102 eggs were relocated to a more stable part of the beach.
5-gallon bucket of sea turtle eggs, ready to move

The mystery that this single nest posed reminds me that all of the sea turtle volunteers in the state stand ready to walk the beaches at dawn, never knowing when extra time and effort will be required to protect and preserve our natural resources. Thank You!

To view the entire feature story in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

To view past blog entries on sea turtles click SCDNR Sea Turtle Trawl - Leatherback Sighting - World Sea Turtle Day - SC Aquarium Sea Turtle Release

Turtle Lady T-shirt Design of Hatchlings!

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