Good turtle nesting season cause for celebration

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Good turtle nesting season cause for celebration

Published Saturday, November 10, 2012   |  402 Words  |  

The odds are so against a loggerhead sea turtle making it to maturity that good news on nesting -- the first and perhaps most critical stage -- warrants celebrating.

The report this year is excellent. A record number of sea turtle nests were reported in South Carolina this season, according to data from the state Department of Natural Resources. Of 4,604 loggerhead sea turtle nests counted, 544 were on Hilton Head, Daufuskie and Fripp islands and at Hunting Island State Park.

Turtles lay their eggs from May to mid-August. The eggs hatch from July to October.

Hilton Head had the most nests in Beaufort County with 319. That's slightly under last year's 324 nests, but nearly double the number reported in 2002, according to records kept by DNR's Turtle Conservation Program.

At Hunting Island State Park, 120 nests were reported in 2012, up from 68 in 2011 and 111 in 2010.

On Harbor Island, 42 nests were found, down from 68 in 2011, but up from the 30 found in 2010.

Daufuskie Island recorded 68 nests, compared with 69 in 2011 and 65 in 2010. In 2007, the first year records are available for Daufuskie in the Sea Turtle Nest Monitoring System, only 19 nests were found. That's solid progress.

Fripp Island recorded 37 nests this year. Last year, a record number of 69 nests were reported, but 2010 saw only 25 nests.

In the case of the loggerhead, success literally breeds success. More loggerheads making it to sexual maturity means more nesting turtles.

But that's just the start. The turtles face a host of obstacles, and we humans have done more to help that process over the past 30 years.

Scientists point to three key factors for the improving numbers:

  • Turtle-excluder devices on trawler nets saving large juveniles and nesting turtles.
  • The availability of good nesting habitat (dry, sandy beaches).
  • The protection of nests once the eggs are laid.
  • Volunteer Turtle Watch programs are a big help. Volunteers spot and mark nests, moving them above the high tide when necessary. They are out there every day during nesting season.

    People who live, work or vacation along the beaches also make a difference when they make sure lights are out from 10 p.m. to dawn so that mother turtles and hatchlings aren't disoriented by artificial light.

    It's good to see all of these efforts paying off.