Sea turtle nesting season begins; how you can help protect them

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Sea turtle nesting season officially begins Tuesday and city officials want to remind everyone to do their part in protecting endangered sea turtles.

Starting May 1, sea turtles will come to shore and lay more than 100 eggs in nests on beaches across the Grand Strand. In 2017, South Carolina had its second-best season with more than 5,000 total nests, with roughly 100 in the Horry county area, according to Myrtle Beach State Park ranger Anne Wilson.

Wildlife officials say if you see a sea turtle in the ocean or on the beach, stay away from it. Meanwhile, Myrtle Beach city officials warn shining a light on them, is considered a disturbance and is against federal law. If you're caught, you could go to jail or be forced to pay up to $15,000 in fines.

Wilson says there's several ways you can help protect these wild animals.

"There are so many things you can do even if you never see a sea turtle. You can stay off the sand dunes, those hills of grass which are critical nest habitats for sea turtles and our first line of defense against storms, you can keep your dog on a leash at all times. It's okay to dig holes but fill them in when you're done," she said.

Wilson added they've recently seen leatherback turtles at Myrtle Beach State Park, but haven't seen any loggerhead turtles just yet. The season, while just beginning, runs through October.

Copyright 2018 WMBF News. All rights reserved.