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** Archived Article - please check for current information. **

May 6, 2011

Loggerhead nesting now underway in South Carolina

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Marine Turtle Conservation Program is excited to report that loggerhead nesting has officially begun in South Carolina. The first nest of the season was reported by Janie Lackman, Nest Protection Project Leader for Fripp Island in Beaufort County. A nest has also been reported on Cape Island in the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge. 

In early May, loggerheads come ashore at night to lay their eggs. Loggerhead nesting in South Carolina has been well documented and has averaged 3,378 nests per year over the last 10 years. The nesting season runs from mid May to mid August.

The average clutch size in South Carolina is 120 eggs. Each female will nest approximately four times per season with two week intervals between each nesting event. The average nest incubation duration for a loggerhead sea turtle is 55 - 60 days.  Nests begin to hatch around mid to late July and hatchlings continue to emerge through October. 

After a turtle nest has hatched, DNR staff and volunteers evaluate the remaining contents of the hatched nest to determine the success of each nest.  To keep up in real time with the number of nests laid and hatchlings emerged, please visit the South Carolina Online Nest Monitoring System provided by Seaturtle.org. You can also follow nesting in Georgia and North Carolina.

Sea turtles also begin washing up on our beaches (stranding) in April. To date, we have had 18 strandings with three of those washing up alive. To keep up with strandings in South Carolina please visit our online STRAND database provided by Seaturtle.org.

The DNR Marine Turtle Conservation Program is also participating in a multi-state project along with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the North Carolina Wildlife and Resources Commission to answer several basic loggerhead sea turtle nesting questions. The answers to these questions will help biologists better understand how the loggerhead population is doing. Currently, the actual number of loggerhead sea turtles that nest in South Carolina is not known. We will use DNA genetic fingerprinting (CSI for sea turtles) to identify individual loggerhead nesting females. This information will provide a census of the actual nesting population. This year (2011) marks year two of this project. You can follow the progress of this study on our genetics study webpage provided by Seaturtle.org.

The support of South Carolina coastal residents and visitors is needed more than ever to raise awareness and educate our visitors to Keep Light’s Out for Loggerheads. When adult females come ashore to nest, they need a dark beach to properly navigate in and out of the ocean. If there are artificial lights on the beach that prevent the female from finding her way, she becomes disoriented. Disorientations occur when artificial beach lighting is brighter than the natural ocean horizon. You can also help by turning out all lights in your house that are visible from the beach, dusk to dawn, from May through Oct. Closing blinds and drapes on windows that face the ocean also reduces the light pollution on the beach. If a sea turtle hatchling is disoriented by artificial light, federal fines for harming a threatened or endangered species can reach $25,000. County and local lighting ordinances exist to protect sea turtles. Violating local or county lighting ordinances carry fines up to $500.

To learn more, please visit our Lights Out For Loggerheads webpage.

What You Can Do to Help Sea turtles in South Carolina:

The DNR Marine Turtle Conservation Program is responsible for managing and protecting sea turtles in the state of South Carolina. The program has several all-encompassing components: management, monitoring, research, and education. More specifically, this program implements management techniques to mitigate activities that may impact sea turtles and provides training and support to 25 projects and over 1100 volunteers across the coast who protect nests and document sea turtles that wash ashore (strandings). DNR staff members also perform necropsies on fresh dead strandings and respond to live strandings in need of care.

In additional sea turtle news, retired DNR state sea turtle conservation coordinator, Sally Murphy, received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Sea Turtle Society at the 31st annual International Sea Turtle Symposium (ISTS) in San Diego, CA. The ISTS Life-Time Achievement Award honors an individual that has had a significant impact on sea turtle biology and conservation through the course of their career and is the highest honor given by the Society.


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