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Turtle nesting season starts along SC beaches

Updated: May. 2, 2021 at 8:02 PM EDT
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FOLLY BEACH, S.C. (WCSC) - Starting this weekend through October is a critical season for endangered Loggerhead turtles that call South Carolina’s coastline home.

For the next six months, the turtles will be making their way back to the beach to create nests.

Volunteers with South Carolina’s Department of Natural resources have already started making their rounds looking for potential nests to flag.

“The passion is the protection,” Folly Beach lead coordinator Teresa Marshall said. “They’re lovely, wonderful creatures and we just want to do our best to take care of them.”

With travel ramping back up and more people returning to Lowcountry beaches, Marshall says it’s more important now than ever for volunteers to stay on top of conservation efforts.

“That is one reason why we want our volunteers out here first thing in the morning so that we can address tracks, nest relocations as soon as possible,” Marshall said.

Marshall said another challenge along Folly Beach is ongoing construction of the Pier, but crews are working with turtle nesting teams to keep bright lights and distractions down.

“We’ve got protocols in place for them to check in with us on a daily basis,” Marshall said. “They are actually going to be watching out for tracks as well.”

Melissa Ranly, Manager of the Sea Turtle Care Center at the South Carolina Aquarium, said the number of nests fluctuate every other year, making this year not just busier for beach goers, but loggerheads alike.

“Two years ago was a record-breaking year so it’s a definite possibility that this is going to be a high year,” Ranly said.

A record 8,802 nests were found across the South Carolina coast in 2019.

“I am sure there’s going to be some more people on the beaches,” Ranly said. “Right now, we really want to give people some good positive ways that they can make sure it’s a safe environment for the animals to come up and nest.”

A few things people can do to help the turtles this summer is first, pick up litter and fill in any holes left on the beach.

“This is something that people from out of town might not think about ‚” Ranly said. “But a nursing turtle that’s crawling up in the middle of the night might not see a hole and might fall in that and become trapped.”

Also, turn out any bright lights as they can become dangerous distractions.

“For a female that is crawling up on the beach she can be distracted by that and crawl back into the water without laying her eggs,” Ranly said.

People can find more information on SCDNR’s Marine Turtle Conservation Program as well as other ways to keep Loggerheads safe online here.

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