Loggerhead-NestThe Friends of Hunting Island Sea Turtle Conservation Program is underway again. Dawn patrol volunteers walking the beach on May 23 discovered Nest #10. It was located below the Spring High Tide Line, so the nest was carefully uncovered, the eggs were moved to higher ground, and the nest was cordoned off.

Much to the amazement of the volunteers, 161 eggs were uncovered. The average in South Carolina is 100-126, although Buddy Lawrence, a Hunting Island State Park employee, remembers that Nest #4 in 2014 had 170 eggs. The record number of eggs recorded on Hunting Island is 200.

The official name for loggerhead sea turtles is Caretta caretta. They were placed on the threatened species list in 1978 and named the South Carolina State Reptile in 1988.

Loggerhead sea turtles lay eggs from early May until August along most of the barrier islands in the southeastern Atlantic, and many islands have volunteer groups who help protect them. Friends of Hunting Island has the largest volunteer group in the state with 200 members covering four zones of the Hunting Island beach seven days a week. Volunteers arrive at the park at 6 am and then walk the beach searching for indications of a mama turtle’s crawl.

The mamas lay an average of four nests in a year, but they only lay every three or four years. Incubation lasts for about 60 days, and volunteers also look for hatchlings’ tracks as they make their way to the surf and the Sargasso Sea. Only a few will make it to adulthood. The mamas return to where they were born to lay their eggs.

For more information about the Hunting Island Sea Turn Conservation program, call 770-265-7630.