Loggerhead nesting time along the coast of South Carolina and beyond has officially begun.

May 1st marks the start of loggerhead nesting season, which will last through the end of October.

Loggerheads  –  those gentle giants of the sea, and unofficial mascots of the Lowcountry  –  use our fair barrier islands to birth their young.

Populations of loggerhead turtles were seriously declining for several years.  Thankfully, the public and private entities woke up to the dire situation.  Thanks to the work of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) along with countless dedicated staff and volunteers, turtle numbers are rebounding well.

If you have stayed on the Isle of Palms during loggerhead nesting season, you very well have seen a turtle nest cordoned off in the dunes.

In a typical year, a few thousand turtle nests are laid along the 190 miles of South Carolina beaches.  This makes South Carolina second only to Florida in the number of sea turtle nests.  Last year (2019) was record-breaking, with the most nests ever counted in a single loggerhead nesting season in South Carolina  –  a whopping 8,802 nests.  This was an increase of 37% over the previous record, which was set back in 2016.  By the way, 2018 was unusually low, with only 2,767 nests recorded.

 

Loggerhead Nesting Season 2020 Has Kicked Off in Style

 

Right on time, the very first loggerhead nest was laid last night  –  April 30th-May 1st .    Mother loggerhead laid the nest on Lighthouse Island, which is located north of the Isle of Palms in the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge.  Read all about it in the Island Eye News.

If you are staying in a beach house now or later this summer, you need to be aware of certain laws.  Several ordinances of the City of Isle of Palms are written to offer protection to these magnificent creatures.  They include:

No personal property shall be located within 25 feet of any emergency beach access or any turtle nest.

In addition to any other applicable State or Federal laws, no person shall physically harm, harass, or otherwise disturb any sea turtle (including eggs and hatchlings) or any sea bird (including eggs and young). Beached or stranded sea turtles, whales, or dolphins shall be reported immediately to the City Police Department.

It shall be unlawful for any person to allow a dog to disturb nesting sea turtles, turtle nests or turtle hatchlings.

The main ordinance concerns exterior lights of oceanfront homes.  They must be turned off from sunset to sunrise during turtle nesting season.  That’s because artificial lighting confuses the baby hatchlings and the mamas as well.  They mistake it for the reflection of the moon and stars off the ocean, which they use to navigate.  Even flashlights and any small lighting visible from the water or beach can spell disaster for the turtles.  Remember: Lights Our For Loggerheads!

 

The Turtle Team and SCDNR

 

The Island Turtle Team is a group of volunteers who work tirelessly on behalf of sea turtles like the loggerhead.  They mark and protect nests, count eggs, relocate them when necessary.  Members keep an eye peeled for injured or distressed turtles who need hospitalization at the Aquarium.  They keep accurate records, all in an effort to ensure successful survival of the species.

The team keeps a website with the latest photos and info on their progress, as well as records of past nesting seasons.   And here’s the turtle page on the City of IOP’s website.

Here is the DNR official website, with total nests laid in the state so far this year.

So keep an eye peeled for turtle nests when you’re staying in a beach house Charleston, and be sure to turn out those lights.  And be sure to contact EP to book your next stay at the beach.

All best,
Lowcountry Lisa
your Isle of Palms vacation blogger