The Friends of Hunting Island
Loggerhead Sea Turtle Rescue Program
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 1 - October 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 110 million years. With 11,110 eggs laid during the summer of 2012, why do they need our help so desperately?
Because experts say that only 1 in 1,000 hatchlings or 1 in 10,000 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 or cage 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!
Our turtle patrols and nest management program were the inspiration for Friends of Hunting Island. You can join Friends to support the program or to become a turtle volunteer. The managers of our project cooperate with SeaTurtle.Org. You can help them (and us!) by paricipating in the Adopt a Nest program. Hunting Island's sea turtle rescue program will receive up to $15 of the $25 fee to adopt a nest. Thank you!
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!