NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - Volunteers with the North Myrtle Beach Sea Turtle Patrol are trying their best to move forward after several sea turtle protection cages were destroyed and stolen earlier this week.
The recent actions have put a financial and physical strain on the volunteer organization, which said about $500 worth of property was destroyed.
Sea turtles are an endangered species and are protected under state and federal law, meaning any disturbance to a sea turtle nest could result in a fine and imprisonment.
“In my recent memory I just don’t remember recalling anybody doing that much destruction to any sea turtle nest,” said ranger Ann Wilson.
Wilson has spent the past 25 years protecting sea turtles and other wildlife along the Grand Strand.
While no eggs were damaged, the protective screening or cages that lay over top of the nest plays a major role in keeping it safe.
“Our screens are just plastic because we don’t have a huge predator problem, but other places like North Myrtle Beach or Huntington Beach they literally have metal cages because they have predator problems,” said Wilson.
Bright orange signs and rope barriers are also placed around most nests, warning those of the repercussions. Several vacationers say they don’t understand why someone would try to harm an endangered species.
“It just seems like there’s no point to it and I don’t know why you’d even do that,” said Anne Dickinson.
This has been a recording-breaking year for nesting in South Carolina and Myrtle Beach, which has a lot to do with conservation and protection efforts.
“All of those efforts have really helped because it takes 25 to 35 years before a loggerhead sea turtle can lay her first nest,” said Wilson.
With new groups of tourists coming through the Grand Strand every week, Wilson knows it’s impossible to educate everyone. Still, she continues to try her best for the sea turtle nests.
“It’s a constant educational battle we have and there’s no other way than to keep doing what we’re doing and hoping that people will spread the word,” said Wilson.
Representatives with the North Myrtle Beach Sea Turtle Patrol said all four nest were relocated. The group is now focusing its efforts on the nests that could begin hatching in the coming weeks.
Anyone with information on the incident is asked to call the S.C. Department of Natural Resources at (800) 922-5431.