Friends of Hunting Island

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© 2019 • Website by Galen Studio

SEA TURTLE CONSERVATION

Loggerhead Sea Turtle Facts​

  • The loggerhead sea turtle is the state reptile of South Carolina.

  • Loggerhead sea turtles are classified as "threatened" in the United States and "endangered" internationally. They are a state and federally protected species.

  • In the United States, loggerheads nest from Virginia to the Gulf Coast.

  • Loggerheads are carnivores, and eat crabs, lobsters, clams, sea urchins, and jellyfish. They use their powerful jaws to crush crustaceans. Juvenile loggerheads eat small invertebrates, such as crabs.

  • Adult loggerheads are between 33 and 48 inches in length and weigh up to 350 pounds.

  • Loggerhead lifespan is estimated to be 50 to 80 years or more.

  • Loggerheads reach sexual maturity between 20 and 35 years of age, mainly based on food availability.

  • Only females return to land, to lay their eggs. Males remain at sea their entire lives.

  • In South Carolina, females nest 4 to 7 times a season, with 12-15 days between nestings. The female usually then takes a 2 to 3.5 year "break" before nesting again.

  • Females may mate several times with different males, storing enough sperm for the entire egg laying season. Nesting season here in South Carolina begins in May and continues through August. Average egg incubation on our beach is 56 days.

  • Nest temperature determines the sex of the hatchling turtles. Hotter temperatures produce more females, cooler temperatures more males.

  • After hatching, the hatchling turtle remains in the nest approximately two days while its shell hardens and it absorbs its yolk sac.

  • Hatchlings must be allowed to walk to the water unaided. This allows them to imprint on our sand and orient themselves to the earth's magnetic field. It has been shown that adult females may return to nest in the same region, or even the same beach, on which they were hatched.

  • After sea turtle hatchlings emerge from their nests, they vanish into the sea. Until recently, their journey was largely shrouded in mystery. Now, as technology advances, researchers are beginning to understand where turtles go during their so-called “lost years.” Click here to watch the documentary “Sea Turtles: The Lost Years”

 

SEA TURTLE PROJECT VOLUNTEER INFORMATION

Registration for the 2020 season opens January 1. If you would like to walk as a visitor with a turtle patrol team any morning(s) June through September, please email FOHISeaTurtleProject@gmail.com for more information on when and where to meet.

In cooperation with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, our volunteers commit their early mornings from May through mid-October to walking the beaches of Hunting Island State Park, locating and protecting nests, relocating nests when necessary, and conducting nest inventories after the hatchlings emerge. 

 

In 2019, volunteers located and protected 153 loggerhead nests in the six zones of the Hunting Island State Park Beach.  Approximately 8,945 young turtles successfully hatched, assisted by our efforts. What will 2020 bring?

Who are the Volunteers?

People like YOU, who, as member of Friends of Hunting Island, commit to join the Project.

 

What will I do if I join the Project?

  • Walk the Hunting Island State Park beach with other volunteers to identify sea turtle crawls (tracks) and nests.

  • Help locate the nest cavity.

  • Help relocate nests laid within the intertidal zone to higher ground.

  • Protect nests with mesh and wire cages and identify with official signage.

  • Monitor nests for signs of hatching and hatchling emergence.

  • Inventory nests when hatching is complete.

What might my assigned role include?

Sea Turtle Project Team Members:

  • Attend a morning training session on South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and Friends of Hunting Island requirements and procedures during the first week of May.

  • Report to the Visitors’ Center at 6 AM one day per week during the nesting and hatching season, May through mid-October.

  • Walk the beach with Team Leaders and look for turtle tracks and nests.

  • Protect nests in situ or relocate nests.

  • Monitor nests for signs of predation and later hatching.

  • Participate in nest inventories when hatching is complete.

  • Enjoy the beautiful sunrises and watch for mother sea turtles leaving the beach!

Sea Turtle Nest Probers/ Team Leaders (returning volunteers only):

Responsibilities include all of the responsibilities of Team Members plus the following:

  • Attend a special training for probers to learn to identify the precise location of a nest.

  • Be reassigned, when necessary, to a day when the need for a prober is greatest.

  • Locate the nest cavity.

  • Extract one egg from each nest for DNA testing.

  • Determine whether a nest should be relocated.

  • In the case of relocation, direct and assist the digging of the new nest cavity on higher ground.

  • Direct and assist with properly moving the eggs from the old nest to the new nest site.

  • Supervise the protection of the nest from predators using a mesh screen or wire cage.

  • Supervise the marking of DNA vials and nest signage.

  • Report findings.

Sea Turtle Project Day Leaders (returning volunteers only):

Responsibilities include all of the responsibilities of Team Leaders and the following:

  • Assign each team to its zone of responsibility for the day.

  • Maintain radio contact with all teams and assist as necessary.

  • Make sure all teams have left the beach safely and have reported their findings.
     

What do I get in return for all this?

  • FOHI Sea Turtle Project Volunteers have the satisfaction of knowing that they join the ranks of elite sea turtle conservation volunteers across the state, nation, and globe in preserving one of our most threatened marine creatures.  Sea turtles have been in our earth’s oceans for about 145 million years, but their numbers are declining. Only YOU can help to stop this decline, and that is something to be proud of!

How does MY work help Hunting Island’s Sea Turtle Conservation Project?

  • In addition to watching our numbers of nests increase, Sea Turtle Project volunteers log their hours and mileage in at www.seaturtle.org. This organization collects and shares information on sea turtle conservation programs all over the world!

How do I get involved?

Turtle program volunteer registration has closed for 2019.


If I did not sign up this year, how else can I help?

Lights Out: It's the Law!

Because our barrier island beaches serve as nesting places for endangered sea turtles, Beaufort County has enacted a "Lights Out" ordinance during the sea turtle nesting season: May 1 to October 31.

Female Loggerhead sea turtles come ashore from May through August to deposit their eggs. Approximately two months later, hatchlings emerge from the nest, usually at night, and head to the ocean. The natural light reflecting off the water helps them find their way. Lights on or near the beach can confuse the baby turtles, and if they head away from the surf, then dehydration and susceptibility to predators increases. This also exhausts their limited energy supply needed to swim up to sixty miles to the protection of the thick mass of free-floating seaweed known as Sargassum.

Federal civil penalties for having or harassing threatened or endangered species include fines of up to $25,000. Criminal penalties include imprisonment for one year and fines up to $50,000.

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2020 Adopt a Nest

For $50 you can adopt one of 2020's summer's nests and receive a certificate for yourself, or dedicate to a sea turtle lover.