Editorial

Editorial | Turtle Patrols Ready for May Nesting Season

April 23, 2013 

MB State Park Turtle Nest Inventory

One of the live loggerhead sea turtles found during a nest inventory at Myrtle Beach State Park crawls to the ocean last September.

BY CHARLES SLATE — cslate@thesunnews.com Buy Photo

  • Tips on turtles

    Four ways to help endangered sea turtles:

    •  Do not disturb turtles, nests or hatchlings

    •  Do not litter; Turtles mistake litter for food

    •  Fill in holes on the beach, remove tents, chairs and other obstacles when leaving the beach

    •  Turn off or shield lights; if replacing outside fixtures, use turtle friendly lighting

    Source: North Myrtle Beach Sea Turtle Patrol

    Website | www.nmbseaturtlepatrol.com

    Hotline | 843-283-6670

    Email | nmbturtles@hotmail.com

    Myrtle Beach State Park Nature Center

    843-238-0874

  • At a glance

    Sea turtles are protected by law.

    Report to any area law enforcement agency disruption of turtles or nests. Or contact the S.C. Department of Natural Resources | 1-800-922-5431 or SCUTE | 237-9821

    More information, including links on seaturtle nesting, tracking and reporting dead or live turtles: www.seaturtle.org

Sea Turtle patrols in Georgetown and Horry counties and along the Carolinas are making ready for another sea turtle nesting season, beginning in May with the first nests and continuing into October with the last of the hatchlings.

Jeff McClary of Pawleys Island is in his 30th year of helping protect loggerheads and other sea turtles. He is a founder of S.C. United Turtle Enthusiasts or SCUTE, the umbrella organization for the area turtle patrols. McClary says the cool spring suggests nesting later in May, after several days of higher temperatures that warm the ocean water. The patrols will begin in May and continue into October. From May into August, female loggerheads will crawl ashore and make nests in the sand, laying 100 or more eggs in the cavity. The adults return to the ocean. Eggs hatch in six to eight weeks, starting in mid-July and continuing into October.

Female sea turtles, largely loggerheads in South Carolina, do not return to any of the several nests they may make in a season. The hatchlings are on their own, and generally do not need human help in making their way to the ocean.

Certainly the adults coming ashore to lay their eggs do not need human contact of any kind. Indeed, it is illegal to disturb sea turtles or their nests. Linda Mataya of the North Myrtle Beach Sea Turtle Patrol cautions everyone to not put turtles in the ocean. A turtle on the beach does not mean it’s a sea turtle and putting one in the ocean sould kill it. Mataya, responding to reports of turtles on the beach, has returned marsh turtles to the Waccamaw River. Sea turtles that are on the beach and not nesting most likely are sick or injured. Such sightings should be reported, either to the police department or turtle patrol in your area.

The North Myrtle Beach SCUTE group is ready to start walking the beach every morning starting May 1. That patrol includes Briarcliffe Acres. The volunteers, including many who started when the patrol started in 2010, walk the beach starting at sunrise – before beach activity. They look for crawler tracks left by the female adult. Nests are marked and the eggs counted. Turtle nests in high traffic areas are moved as are nests made below the high-tide line. Mataya has 84 full-time volunteers and 10 substitutes. Her patrol’s season is dedicated to Beverly Wilson of Westminster, Md., who died April 16.

The Garden City Beach patrol covers about six miles of beach and Sue Habermeier reports a half dozen new volunteers among her group of 26. She is encouraging property owners to use turtle friendly lighting outside.

The Myrtle Beach State Park patrol has six new groups in the 50-plus group. Ranger Ann Malys Wilson plans to start the patrol May 13, because of the colder water. Last year a record 4,600 sea turtle nests were marked on the state’s beaches. The increased number of nests recorded surely is partly because of the dedicated volunteers who walk the beaches on behalf of loggerheads and other sea turtles.

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