Record number of sea turtles expected on Hilton Head Island this year

Published: Jun. 14, 2019 at 11:33 PM EDT
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HILTON HEAD ISLAND, Sc. (WTOC) - Hilton Head Island now has 220 sea turtle nests on its beaches.

Each and every morning, while most of us are still asleep, a group of anywhere from four to eight volunteers are walking the beach, looking for nests.

“We’re looking for the tracks of the sea turtle, and at the top of the track in the dry sand, there should be a round area, and in that area, we’re probing for the nest chamber, and once we find the eggs, we’ll mark it off with a triangle so that people don’t dig sandcastles in there and put their chair on top of it, or that sort of thing,” said Amber Kuehn, Manager of Sea Turtle Patrol on HHI.

Their record number for nests on Hilton Head Island is 411. They are set to surpass that this year. Those with Sea Turtle Patrol are expecting about 500, and the entire state is experiencing a boom this season.

Fifteen volunteers make up the Sea Turtle Patrol, but they are permitted through the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

“They’re endangered species, so you can’t just go in there and start messing around. You have to be trained and permitted,” Kuehn said.

May 1 through Oct. 31 marks nesting season for the turtles. The incubation period is 45 to 65 days. Sea Turtle Patrol receives some equipment from DNR, but they rely on donations and volunteers. They say they do it out of love for the sea creatures.

“It’s hard to explain. You would have to experience the presence of a sea turtle to kind of get it, but they’re ancient creatures. They’ve been on the planet for 80 million years. There’s something to that. So, when you see them, you’ll be in awe.”

When you’re finished enjoying a day at the beach, they say the simplest things you can do to help the sea turtle nest is to pick up your beach equipment and your litter, and not shine a light on the sea turtles. Sea Turtle Patrol also says filling in holes before you leave the beach is important for the turtles’ survival. If you see a nest that hasn’t been marked, you can contact South Carolina or Georgia DNR and let them know where to find it.

If you’d like to donate to Sea Turtle Patrol, click here.

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