GARDEN CITY, SC (WMBF) – There is a massive push to protect the Loggerhead sea turtle in the Grand Strand. Conservationists are saying years of protecting the species could be paying off.
The South Carolina United Turtle Enthusiasts, or SCUTE, reports 165 nests have been found so far this season. This is just three nests away from last year's record, and there's still one month left to go in this nesting season.
Ann Wilson with Myrtle Beach State Park, and a member with SCUTE, says decades of conservation efforts are paying off. For the last 22 years, every morning during nesting season, SCUTE volunteers hit the beach to hunt for turtle tracks. They cover the sand from Hob Caw in Georgetown County to North Myrtle Beach. If they find tracks that lead them to a nest, they relocate the batch of eggs to safer spots, if needed. Every nest is covered with a protective net above and marked.
SCUTE also works to educate beachgoers. Wilson says clean beaches play a big role in a turtle's survival.
"We've been protecting habitats, educating people. And turtles, it takes them 25 to 30 years to reproduce. We're now starting to see some of the younger turtles, we're seeing the fruits of our labor. It's been a long, hard, patient journey, but it think it's paying off now," added Wilson.
SCUTE teams hit the beaches every morning before sunrise to look for turtle tracks that could lead them to nests.
Volunteers with SCUTE say the busy nesting season makes the early morning walks well worth the effort.
"It's just so rewarding to be able to educate people, to be able to teach them what we know about turtles, and so they'll pass it on as well and they'll help protect them too," said SCUTE volunteer Mari Armstrong.
"We're just interested in conservation and the little animals. We just try to increase their chances of getting to the ocean," added SCUTE volunteer Sue Habermeier.
On Tuesday morning, SCUTE volunteers found two more nests; one in Garden City and another in Pawleys Island. Those won't be added to the official count until SCUTE gets the final report from all of the beaches later Tuesday night.