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Seabrook Island Turtle Patrol on May 26
The sea turtle monitoring teams across the barrier islands of the Lowcountry have been a busy bunch in May of 2019. The warmer than usual weather brought the mature female loggerhead turtles onshore sooner than normal and with greater pace. The red hot start to the sea turtle nesting season does not guarantee a record year however, since the turtle nesting frenzy may simply end earlier too. It is factual to say that the turtle hatchling season will be starting sooner since it takes about 60 days for turtle eggs to incubate in the beach sand.
The Town of Kiawah Island is leading the way with 100 loggerhead sea turtle nests in place by May 24, with daily nesting totals as high as one dozen. Longtime Lowcountry residents can recall when a slower pace of one or two nests per day was the norm, with higher rates only coming occasionally. In 2018, Kiawah only had a total of eight sea turtle nests by the same time, putting them on a potentially record pace for overall turtle nests. In 2013 Kiawah recorded 404 sea turtle nests, which still stands as their highest total ever.
Seabrook has set a record for the month of May regarding loggerhead sea turtle nests in 2019. The previous record high in May at Seabrook was 20 nests in 2017, and they went on to have a total of 70 nests that year. In 2015 they recorded 19 nests in the month of May and 75 sea turtle nests overall. But 2018 was a slower year for turtle nests. All of the nesting success thus far in 2019 is great because sea turtle mortality is always a concern during the busy boating season of summer. On May 23 the Seabrook Island Turtle Patrol found a stranded dead Kemp’s Ridley turtle on their beach and reported it to SCDNR.
The Edisto Beach Loggerhead Turtle Project is reporting good success thus far too, with 28 sea turtle nests by May 23, when seven turtles came to lay eggs in one night. The Edisto team is also raising awareness about visitors not leaving shade canopies, beach chairs, cast nets and fishing equipment on the beach overnight. They are all a hazard to nesting sea turtles, especially any large holes dug into the sand that are not filled back in by the folks doing the digging. The annual Lights Out campaign to guard against light pollution that might disorient a sea turtle is ongoing through October 31.
To view the entire feature article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.
To view past blog entries on sea turtles click SCDNR Sea Turtle Trawl - TurtleFest at Edisto Beach State Park - Seabrook Turtle Patrol - Leatherback Sighting - World Sea Turtle Day - SC Aquarium Sea Turtle Release