Editorial | Turtle hatchings underway from record number of nests

August 13, 2013 

  • How to Help

    South Carolina United Turtle Enthusiasts, the umbrella organization for sea turtle patrols in Georgetown and Horry counties, offers these ways to help:

    • Never touch a hatchling

    • Stay off of sand dunes and any green plants

    • No flash photography

    • Pick up trash before you leave the beach

Sea turtle patrols on the beaches of Georgetown and Horry counties have identified a record 221 nests including four in Myrtle Beach by a very fertile green sea turtle.

“She’s a healthy old girl,’’ says Myrtle Beach State Park ranger Ann Malys Wilson, relating that the four nests contained 135, 151, 152 and 158 eggs. The turtle was measured at almost 43 inches in length.

Because the nests were on busy city beaches, they were moved to the state park, where volunteers are watching a total of 30 nests, 24 of them relocated from various locations where experience suggests the nests would not have a good success rate. One green sea turtle nest had a 92 percent success rate, Wilson says. Typically, nests are those of loggerhead sea turtles.

Hatching is running later this year. Linda Mataya, a leader of the North Myrtle Beach patrol, says the two North Myrtle Beach hatchings so far were on Day 64 and Day 67 after the nests were identified. Typically, hatching occurs by the 60th day.

Mataya and Wilson think the cooler and rainy summer is the main factor in later hatching. “All that rain cooled down the nests,’’ Mataya says. The Day 64 nest had a 77 percent success rate. The inventory has halted on the Day 67 nest because hatchlings were discovered outside the shell but still with the egg yolk sac. Department of Natural Resources guidlines require allowing three more days to give the hatchlings time to absorb the yolk, straighten out and crawl out. An inventory is done on every nest to access the hatching success rate of the nest.

The North Myrtle Beach patrol has a total of 11 nests, six in the city and five in Briarcliffe Acres, two more than last summer. In 2011, the total was 18.

Mataya has more than 100 volunteers, including 10 substitutes. ``Every day, I get more applications [for next year].’’ One of the close observers of the North Myrtle Beach activity is an 88-year-old man who walks 10 blocks to a nest at 10th Avenue North.

The North Litchfield patrol completed two inventories Monday and both had a 96 percent success rate. “We were thrilled,’’ says Kathy Raley, coordinator of the patrol with her husband Bill. “We have seven nests in just one mile,’’ she says. The number is “a lot better’’ this year -- they identified no nests last year, but had 14 in 2011, the year SCUTE had a record 205 identified nests.

Sue Habermeier of Garden City Beach says that patrol has 10 nests this year, along six miles of beach. The total is a little more than the usual half dozen nests. “It’s been a busy season,’’ Habermeier says. She, like the other coordinators, urge folks to pick up trash, especially plastic, which can be fatal to turtles and other sea creatures. A sea turtle can mistake a plastic bag for a jellyfish, part of the turtle’s diet.

Filling in holes before you leave the beach is also important -- for humans as well as sea turtles. It’s common-sense safety and filling in the holes should be part of the fun of digging in the sand.

“All in all, it’s a real good year,’’ says Jeff McClary of Pawleys Island, the area’s go-to guy for sea turtles. He’s a founder of South Carolina United Turtle Enthusiasts, the umbrella organization for the patrols.

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