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DNR News

October 24, 2012

Highest loggerhead nesting for South Carolina since 1982

As the 2012 sea turtle nesting comes to end, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Marine Turtle Conservation Program is excited to report that 4,604 sea turtle nests, a record number, were laid this season on S.C. beaches. In addition to 4,596 nests laid by loggerhead sea turtles, there were seven green sea turtle nests (five on Garden City Beach, one on Kiawah Island, and one on North Island) and one leatherback nest (Kiawah Island). Standardized surveys on index loggerhead nesting beaches in S.C. from 1982 - 2012 report high, medium and low years. Both 2010 and 2011 were medium to high years. The 2012 nesting season was of particular interest because the nest count trend has never had three consecutive years where nesting has shown an increase. Loggerhead nesting in 2012 not only topped the previous two years, but was also the highest year on record since 1982. Historical nest counts from the 1970’s indicate we still have a bit to go to reach recovery levels but this may be the beginning.

This year (2012) marks the third year that the DNR Marine Turtle Conservation Program has been participating in a multi-state project along with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the North Carolina Wildlife and Resources Commission and the University of Georgia to answer several basic loggerhead sea turtle nesting questions. We are using DNA genetic fingerprinting (CSI for sea turtles) to identify individual loggerhead nesting females, how many nests they are laying each year, and how long they go in between nesting years. This information will provide a much more accurate census of the actual nesting population. In 2010 and 2011, 1,751 and 1,966 unique females were identified across G.A., N.C., and S.C., respectively. To date, 1,415 unique females have been identified from the 2012 season.

DNR is excited to announce that the newly redesigned Endangered Species plate is now available. The Endangered Species license plate features a loggerhead hatchling, our state reptile, to portray the importance of endangered species’ conservation in S.C. The design is painted by artist Ellen Fishburne using a photograph of an actual loggerhead hatchling on the beach at the Isle of Palms in S.C. Barbara Bergwerf, a retired professional photographer and DNR sea turtle program volunteer, shot this photo one early morning during a nest survey. “There is nothing to compare with the smile on a youngster's face, or adult for that matter, when they see these two-inch hatchlings scurrying down the beach towards the water. There is something magical about watching this journey begin, knowing it has been going on for millions of years,” said Bergwerf. The cost of the license plate is $30 every two years in addition to your normal registration fee. To order the Endangered Species license plate, mail the completed application (Microsoft Word file) and required fees to SC Division of Motor Vehicles, PO Box 1498, Blythewood, SC 29216-0008, visit any DMV office, call (803) 737-4000 or visit www.scdmvonline.com. If you already have an endangered species license plate on your vehicle, you are welcome to maintain your current plate. Any lost or damaged endangered species plates will be replaced with the new design.

Sea turtle stranding response and necropsies (post-mortem examinations) are an important component of DNR Marine Turtle Conservation Program. To date in 2012, there have been 118 sea turtle strandings (turtles that wash ashore alive or dead) in S.C. Twenty-one of these turtles were alive at the time of stranding. DNR transports sick or injured live turtles to the S.C. Aquarium for rehabilitation. Sixteen sea turtles that were rehabilitated have been released this year. Dead turtles are necropsied to examine probable cause of death, foraging habits and sex.


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