By Hope Arent, PVC Content Guru
The Palmera team puts a lot of thought into our blog subjects, and lately I have been trying to make them fun and entertaining for our members, visitors, and anyone else who happens to stumble upon our page. The goal of this blog is the show all of the great things Hilton Head has to offer, and by no fault of our island – lately, as a writer, I have had a little bit of a mental block.
A couple weeks ago, someone mentioned Sea Turtles as a potential subject – which I sort of blew off.. yes, sea turtles are a “thing” on Hilton Head, but no one will want to read about that…
I was driving to work a couple days ago, and still struggling with “writer’s block” looked over and saw a car with a Lights Out for Sea Turtles bumper sticker. I knew that you were supposed to turn out your lights on the beach at night at some time of year, which I thought was cool, and decided I would revisit this idea for a blog.
Much to my surprise, I got half way through the Town of Hilton Head article, and really felt like this was something cool and interesting, but also the things you can do to LITERALLY save these baby turtles’ lives are so easy there is no reason not to do them! (I also kept thinking of that little dude from Finding Nemo and felt seriously emotionally attached to these potential “hatchlings” AKA sea turtle babies)
Based on my extensive* research, here are the things I think you should know about Hilton Head’s seasonal residents: loggerhead babies and their mommas.
ABOUT OUR TURTLE FRIENDS
The most common sea turtles that nest on Hilton Head are called loggerheads. They have large heads, brownish or yellow skin, and adults are about 2.5 to 3.5 ft long and weigh up to 400 lbs… just massive creatures.
NESTING FUN FACTS
Nesting season usually starts during the first or second week of May and is over by the end of August. Female Loggerheads (the mommas) will lay about 120 eggs per nest. They pick the spot for their nest based on temperature and moisture of the sand.
Once she’s laid her eggs, the momma turtle covers the nest with sand, compacts said sand using her body weight, and uses her front flippers to throw the sand around. Once she’s covered up the future babes, she returns to the ocean.
The eggs will incubate for about 50-60 days, and in this time the sex will be determined by the temperature. If it is warmer, the eggs will end up female and cooler temps mean more boys.
HATCHING AND GETTING TO THE OCEAN
The nest of up to 120 eggs starts hatching and these little hatchlings start to dig up towards the surface, waiting for the sun to go down and things to cool off in the real world they’re about to enter. Once they’ve gotten up there and are through to the surface, they use the skylight reflected off the water and the downward slope of the beach to find their way to the ocean.
WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG
So, you’re a little baby turtle (hatchling, if you prefer), you peek your head out of your nest with all your brothers and sisters, and look for the light that is supposed to guide you to the ocean… but wait… there are lights in a different direction. How is your baby turtle brain supposed to handle that???
When lights toward the inland are brighter than the skylight reflection off the ocean, naturally the hatchlings get disoriented and start moving inland… and as any parent knows, once that baby starts down the wrong path there are a number of things that could go wrong. For baby sea turtles mainly that means dying from:
- Drowning in a pool
- Getting hit by a car
HOW CAN I SAVE THESE HATCHLINGS
Loggerhead Sea Turtles are listed as threatened by both the federal government and state of South Carolina, which is an easy thing to say and even, according to the Town of Hilton Head, can cause people to feel like there is nothing they can do about it. But there are things you can do and they aren’t that hard!!
- Buildings visible from the beach: Turn out your outside lights at 10PM from May 1 to October 31 (nesting and hatching season).
- If your inside lights are visible or cast light on the beach, close your drapes or blinds after 10PM or just turn your lights off during that same nesting/hatching season.
- Don’t leave umbrellas, chairs, or other beach accessories on the beach overnight. The moms can get tangled and the babies can get disoriented or stuck, just like with the lights.
- If you are digging and building castles during the day, fill your holes or flatten them out when you’re done – these can become death traps if the hatchlings get stuck.
- Throw away your trash and recyclables – which you should anyway!
- DO NOT DISTURB THE NESTS, MOMS, OR BABY TURTLES IF YOU SEE THEM.
If you need to report a violation, on weekdays you can contact Town of Hilton Head Island Code Enforcement Officers: Wendy Conant – (843) 341-4643. To report dead, injured, or harassed turtles, the South Carolina Department of National Resources hotline can be reached at 1(800) 922-5431.
Author’s Note: I received all of the information for this blog on the Town of Hilton Head Website, you can click this link to go straight to the article. As I was reading their article I felt like it was important to share because the things you can do to protect the little baby sea turtles are so easy! And it’s important to keep our sweet little island as a safe place for the natural wildlife that makes it so special. Hopefully this will be helpful and you’ll learn a little bit! I also got information from this page on the Town of Hilton Head’s website – both articles are great.