We are about a month or so into sea turtle season on Hilton Head Island! With this being said, the adult female turtles come to land, usually at night, and lay their eggs at the beginning of the season, and then towards the end of the season the eggs will hatch!
As of today, June 13, 2016 we have 164 nests! This sounds like a lot, however we only have a 60% success rate on Hilton Head. With 108 "false crawls", we have the potential for 40% more nests. A "false crawl" is when an adult female sea turtle comes into land to lay her eggs and gets scared or stressed about something and returns promptly to the water without laying the eggs. Since we can't talk to sea turtles and ask them what is stressing them out, we have to speculate that it is too much human activity. Daufuskie Island, Hilton Head's neighbor which we all know is less crowded has a success rate of 84% so far this year.
This is some eye opening data. We need to spread the word to keep the lights off when it is dark on beach front properties and even a row or 2 behind. The law says lights out after 10pm, but the lights on any time after dark can alter their paths or cause stress so be better than the law! Also, if you are lucky enough to see a sea turtle it is common sense to want to get a photo but remember: no flashes! Try to stay quiet around them as well because a lot of noise may also cause stress. Keep in mind these sea turtles don't have access to the internet or TV. They don't know what we are. We could be a scary predator for all they know. Just because we know we have good intentions doesn't mean they know that - they aren't mind readers either.
If you see a sea turtle in general but especially if you see one being harassed please report to Beach Patrol immediately! (843-785-3494) This is illegal and dangerous for the turtle population as they are very sensitive. Yes, sea turtles can weigh in at 400lbs but their large size doesn't make them any braver. Please be smart and be respectful.