First sea turtle nest hatches in the Palmetto State

First sea turtle nest hatches in the Palmetto State
The tracks left by dozens of sea turtle hatchlings are visible in this early morning shot shared by the Town of Kiawah. (Source: SCDNR)

CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) – The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources announced it is officially sea turtle hatching season.

On Saturday, July 11, volunteers on Kiawah Island discovered dozens of tiny sea turtle tracks leading across the beach and into the ocean.

“Laid on May 6, this nest incubated 66 days,” said SCDNR sea turtle biologist Michelle Pate. “It was neck and neck with the possibility that a Seabrook Nest would fully emerge first, but the accolade goes to Kiawah this year.”

Kiawah Island Turtle Patrol member Barbara Pagnotta stands next to the state's first sea turtle nest to hatch in 2020.
Kiawah Island Turtle Patrol member Barbara Pagnotta stands next to the state's first sea turtle nest to hatch in 2020. (Source: SCDNR)

Sea turtle season begins in May, where four sea turtle species come ashore to lay eggs on South Carolina beaches.

After two months of incubation, young turtles emerge from their shells and crawl back to the ocean.

Sea turtle hatchlings typically surface at night, and lights from piers, roads and beachfront properties can disrupt this process.

Beachgoers and beachfront property owners are urged to keep lights off the beach at night because the hatchlings use natural light to navigate them toward the ocean.

Sea turtles will continue to nest for about two more months. It is the halfway point of the season and staff and volunteers have counted around 4,200 nests.

Sea Turtle Nesting Season Reminders From SCDNR:

  • Report all sick/injured/dead sea turtles and nest disturbances to the SCDNR at 1-800-922-5431 so that staff/volunteers can respond as soon as possible.
  • Respect boating laws and boat cautiously, especially in small tidal creeks where sea turtles like to feed. Boat strikes have emerged as the leading cause of death for sea turtles in South Carolina.
  • Keep artificial lights off the beach at night during nesting season – this includes beachfront property lights and flash photography, which can disorient nesting mothers and hatchlings.
  • Always respect sea turtles by observing them from a distance on the beach. Individuals that violate federal law by harming or interfering with sea turtles or their nests can be subject to civil penalties of up to $25,000 and up to a year’s imprisonment.
  • Keep our beaches and ocean clean by avoiding single-use plastics. Plastic bags and balloons are among the most common trash items found on South Carolina beaches and can cause injury or death when sea turtles mistake them for food.

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