NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – The North Myrtle Beach Sea Turtle Patrol starts walking the beach for signs of a sea turtle crawl on the Grand Strand shores starting in early May.
Many believe there is no chance a sea turtle would nest on the busy Grand Strand. "Most people said no, you would not have any sea turtle activity on North Myrtle Beach," says Linda Mataya with the Sea Turtle Patrol. "We always said if we had one or two nests we would be happy. In 2011, we were getting calls, 'there's another nest, there's another nest'."
The patrol went from 9 nests in their very first year to 18 nests in 2011. It was not just the nest count that had the group so excited.
"By the middle of May we had probably 60 volunteers," Mataya continues. "And of course the first year we found nine nests on North Myrtle Beach. Once they emerged and the word got out, everybody wanted to do it."
Now the group heads into their fourth year, and they have to limit the number of volunteers to 84. Though the patrol considers the post almost a full-time job, most volunteers will never spot a sea turtle crawl.
"You know most of the time when they're walking the beach they aren't going to see anything," Mataya says. "So we've asked them as a distraction and as a community service to start picking up the trash on the beach."
The Sanitation Department plays a role in spotting sea turtle crawls with its unique schedule. "We go over around the start of the season and talk to the sanitation department," Mataya explains. "They're on the beach at about 4 a.m. so they're going to see any activity before we see it. So we talk to them. They are out there looking for it. I'll get a call about 4:30 a.m. and they are excited!"
The community of North Myrtle Beach so thrilled that the volunteer group is dedicated to educating the public about logger-head sea turtles. Sometimes there are a few special guests learning about the Grand Strand's neighbors.
"Then one night we look up, and there's Mayor Hately and her granddaughter," says Rob Kayton of North Myrtle Beach Sea Turtle Patrol. "And a couple of nights later, there's a couple councilmen and their children. We've had Vanna White out here."
The North Myrtle Beach Sea Turtle Patrol has become a tight knit group of volunteers. They help keep our most amazing natural resource clean and protect an endangered species.