We Support Sea Turtles at Hunting Island State Park!

Every spring on the South Carolina coast, the excitement starts to build for the season of Loggerhead Sea Turtles! Preparations are made to welcome these gentle giants, anticipating an arrival of nesting females in mid May, as we have done every season since 1993. The season on Hunting Island begins with the Friends of Hunting Island; volunteers scouring the beach at 6 am in search of turtle tracks, every morning May 15 - August 15. Someone checks the beach every morning until the season ends with the last hatchling safe in the ocean, in early October. The incubation period for nests is 45-60 days and each nest contains 120 eggs on average.

Loggerhead Sea Turtles have been nesting on beaches all over the world for over 150 million years. With 6,826 eggs laid during the summer of 2006, why do they need our help so desperately?

mother sea turtle Because experts say that only 1 in 1,000, and some say 1 in 10,000 of these eggs will become a reproductive adult. It takes 25 -30 years for a Loggerhead to reach sexual maturity and a lot can happen to these turtles before they are 30 years old. Much about their early lives is unknown, but what we do know is that it is a tough life for hatchling and juvenile Sea Turtles. They face many obstacles in the water and on land. So to help them on land, we give the eggs a head start and physically move any nest that might not make it through incubation due to Hunting Island's fast erosion rate. First, we make sure the nest is in a safe spot. If we determine it needs to be moved to higher ground, we look for a spot on a high sand dune that will be safe from erosion for at least 60 days. Then we dig a replica nest, with the same dimensions of the original turtle-dug nest. We make the replica nest a little bigger because we have to be a lot more careful in moving the eggs than the mother turtle had to be in laying them! We are careful not to rotate or move the eggs too quickly, so not to disturb the developing sea turtle inside the egg. And then we cover the nest with a screen to keep predators out. We make it possible for many more nests to hatch!

This sort of beach management is very common on the beaches of South Carolina, so visit the links to check out other projects on the Carolina coast and find out more about what you can do to help these special creatures!

We are lucky Hunting Island is relatively undeveloped, and beach-front lighting is not a major problem on our beach. On many beaches, lights can distract and disorient hatchlings, the end result being that hatchlings go towards the road instead of the ocean! To help the Sea Turtles: Please keep all lights off the beaches of South Carolina, May - October. It is the law!

About Loggerheads

"The Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta) is a sea turtle and the only member of the genus Caretta. The genus name "Caretta" is a latinization of the French "caret," meaning turtle, tortoise, or sea turtle.

"It is characterized by a large head with blunt jaws. It is also identifiable by the five scutes along the side of the carapace. Adults grow to an average weight of about 200 pounds (91 kg). The species feeds on molluscs, crustaceans, fish, and other marineanimals, which they crush with their large and powerful jaw. As with other sea turtles, females return to lay their eggs on or near the same beach where they hatched. Unlike other sea turtles, courtship and mating usually do not take place near the nesting beach, but rather along the migration routes between feeding and breeding grounds.

"Loggerheads mate from late March to early June. The female nesting season is at its peak in June and July, but this depends on the nesting beach. The clutch may vary from 100 to 126 eggs. The average interval between nesting seasons is two to three years.

"Loggerheads live most of their life in open water. They may spend time on the ocean floor. The shore waters are their main foraging habitat.

"Most loggerheads that reach adulthood live for longer than 30 years, and can often live past 50 years.

"Two subspecies are recognized: Caretta caretta gigas, is found in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and C. caretta caretta, the Atlantic loggerhead, also found in the Greek islands of Zakynthos and Kefalonia and in Dalyan in southwestern Turkey."


"The Loggerhead Sea Turtles were once intensively hunted for their meat and eggs, along with their fat which was used in cosmetics and medication. As a result both subspecies are now internationally protected. Today the main threat to the species lies in the fishing nets of crabfishers, to which many loggerheads annually fall victim. Internationally animal protection organizations take pains to monitor and protect the turtles' nesting grounds in Turkey, Greece, Bonaire and Costa Rica."

momma turtle heading back to sea
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia.
The original content was at Loggerhead Sea Turtle.
The list of authors can be seen in the page history.
As with this website, the content of Wikipedia is available under the GNU Free Documentation License.

Beaufort County Lights Outturtle ordinance logo turtle silouhette
(Ord. No. 99-12, 1 (05.230), 4-26-1999; Ord. No. 2001-15, 6-11-2001)

The Beaufort County Council finds that the barrier island beaches of Beaufort County serve as nesting habitat for endangered and threatened sea turtles. Coastal development threatens the long-term survival of turtle hatchlings since evidence directly implicating lighting on barrier island beaches and reduced sea turtle nesting has been documented by numerous studies (Witherington 1992b). Artificial lighting near the nesting of sea turtles resulted in dramatic decreases in nesting attempts by sea turtles, including habitat loss, disorientation and eventual death (Raymond 1984a, Witherington and Martin 1996). The Endangered Species Act of 1973 prohibits all killing, harming and harassment of six species of sea turtles (including the Loggerhead). Therefore all lighting for parcels abutting barrier island beaches and dunes shall adhere to the following standards: Existing development abutting barrier island beaches and dunes shall be required to retrofit all lighting fixtures to conform to the following standards by May 1, 2002, in order to ensure that no light is visible from the barrier island beaches or dunes.

(1) Pole lighting shall be bollard louver lighting five feet tall or less that blocks the light source from view and contains illumination within an area of three to less than 73 degrees on the seaward side of the pole (refer to Figure 106-1743 for types of luminaries). Outdoor lighting shall be held to the minimum necessary and, where possible, shall be low pressure sodium for security and convenience.

(2) Bollard lighting shall be used in parking lots and shall be positioned so that no light is visible from the barrier island beaches or dunes.

(3) Lights mounted on walls, steps and balconies shall be fitted with louvers or hoods and at a height from the floor of three feet or less in order that the lights illuminate only the balcony and will not be visible from the barrier island beach or dunes.

(4) Tinted or filmed glass or solar screens and drapes shall be used in windows facing the barrier island beaches or dunes during the period indicated by subparagraph (g)(7).

(5) All lighting illuminating buildings or associated grounds for decorative or recreational purposes shall be shielded or screened such that it is not visible from any barrier island beaches or dune during the period of May 1 to October 31 of every year.

(6) Additional landscaping shall be required when necessary mitigate impacts from development on nesting areas.

(7) This section shall be in effect from dusk to dawn during the sea turtle nesting and hatchling period of May 1 to October 31 of every year.

(8) All other lighting must be shielded so that it is not visible from any barrier island beaches or dunes during the period of May 1 to October 31 of every year.


2010 Loggerhead Turtle Season

The Turtle Patrol will keep you informed about this year's nesting season with stories and photos.