Sea turtle nesting is slowing down and South Carolina United Turtle Enthusiasts are turning their attention to hatching of turtles from eggs in nests along the beaches of Georgetown and Horry counties.
SCUTE coordinator Jeff McClary of Pawleys Island says volunteers who walk the beaches every morning have identified 157 nests from North Myrtle Beach to North Inlet, north of Georgetown. He and area patrol coordinators such as Linda Mataya of North Myrtle Beach, Sue Habermeier of Garden City Beach and Myrtle Beach State Park Ranger Ann Malys Wilson are, Wilson says, “starting to focus on hatching.” However, Wilson was busy Monday morning moving a nest of 92 eggs from the vicinity of 40th Avenue North in Myrtle Beach. There were also two false crawls, and Wilson thinks they likely were by the same turtle who made the nest. All nests in the city are relocated to the state park. “We’re not done yet [with nesting] I think we’ll have a few more.” Last year was a record year for SCUTE; volunteers marked 205 nests. Prior to 2011, the highest number of nests was 148.
Habermeier’s patrol, in its fourth year, has 14 nests – including three green sea turtle nests. McClary suspects DNA test results will show the green sea nests are from the same turtle, because of the proximity of the nests and the times the nests were made. Five has been the typical number of nests in the five-and-a-half-mile stretch in the Garden City patrol.
Habermeier, Mataya and Wilson all urge people on the beach to fill in holes and remove chairs and tents – which can trap turtles coming ashore to nest or babies making their way to the ocean after digging their way out of the nests. The hatchlings do not need your help. “They can crawl on their own just fine,” Wilson says. In addition to the dozen nests relocated from the city beaches, three loggerheads nested in the state park, seven in Surfside Beach and one in Long Bay.
The city of Myrtle Beach does not have a volunteer patrol. Wilson depends on phone calls from city workers on the beach every morning and police officers who patrol the beach. “They wake me up all the time – which is a good thing.” On June 27, a turtle laid 136 eggs in a nest near 10th Avenue North. “She was still on the beach when we got there at 5:30 a.m.”
North Myrtle Beach marked that area’s ninth nest on Aug. 3. “She came ashore about 9:30 and a young woman called the North Myrtle Beach police. They called me.” Mataya credits the woman, probably a visitor, with knowing “exactly what to do – she kept people back so the turtle could nest in peace.” Unfortunately, Mataya at least twice this summer responded to reports of turtle sightings where people on the beach bothered turtles. In one case, the turtle had dug her egg cavity but did not lay eggs. In the other case, the turtle aborted nesting when people followed her into the protected dunes. That was two violations of the law – harassing a turtle and going into the dunes.
Turtles have nested more in Briarcliffe Acres this year. “We have two [hatchling] emergences on Briarcliffe. All tracks led to the ocean.” And without any misguided human help as nature takes its wondrous course.