EDISTO BEACH, S.C. (WCSC) - As sea turtle hatching season begins, it’s now more important than ever to keep all white lights off the beach at night.
The SCDNR Marine Turtle Conservation Coordinator, Michelle Pate, says recently at Edisto Beach, dozens of newly hatched sea turtles were found dead on the pavement outside the gas station, and it was likely because lights were left on.
Newly hatched sea turtles often confuse white light for the horizon Pate said, and will run toward the road instead of the ocean.
"These are little two inch guys and gals that are coming out of the nest," Pate said. "And they've got to make their way all the way to the Gulf Stream, and that's a couple days of swimming for them. So they have this finite amount of energy. So we want to make that journey for them as easy as possible."
Pate says its equally as important for homeowners and beach-goers to keep lights out on the beach at night, especially with more people on the beaches this year.
"We've got a lot more people going to beaches right now and looking to get out" Pate said. "People are a lot more active at night."
But if you are heading out to the beach and you need a flashlight, Pate says there are also stickers to filter the light for the sea turtles.
"When folks are out a the beach at night we encourage them to put like a red filter on their flashlight or some kind of red sticker on there that will kind of tamper that white light down," Pate said. "They can do the same thing on their cellphone, or just not use it at all while they're out there"
Within just the last couple of weeks, Pate says Folly Beach, Kiawah Island, and Isle of Palms have had multiple nests hatch. Right now there are 5,274 nests along the coasts, of which officials say only about 300 of which have hatched.
According to Pate, at least four of the recently hatched nests in the Lowcountry resulted in the sea turtles heading toward land, and never making it to the ocean.
While different beaches use different markers, any time you see a white pole white a small sea turtle picture on it at Kiawah Beach, Pate says it's likely an indicator that there is a nest within a couple of feet.