Published May 1, 2020
Sea turtles begin nesting on Hilton Head Island’s beaches the first and second week of May! A female turtle may travel over a thousand miles to make it back to the same beach where she hatched as a baby, and it’s this same beach where she will lay her own eggs (about 120 per nest!) as an adult. What can you do to give them the best chance of survival?
Leave only your footprints on the beach. Be sure to flatten sandcastles and fill in holes when you’re headed home for the day. Uneven and treacherous sand can deter mothers from nesting and trap hatchlings, making them vulnerable to prey and exposure.
After hatching, the young turtles navigate to the ocean by following the slope of the beach and light reflected off the ocean’s surface. Lights that are brighter than this natural light, such as a flashlight, disorient the hatchlings and cause them to move inland, where they often die. Don’t use flashlights, flash photography or cell phone lights on the beach at night. You can, however, use a special red flashlight.
Oceanfront homes MUST turn off outside lights at 10pm May through October. Blinds/drapes should be closed as well. To report beachfront light violations, contact the Town of Hilton Head Island Code Enforcement at 843-341-4643.
Protect the nests. We know you wouldn’t disturb a sea turtle nest, a nesting sea turtle, or a hatchling. However, sometimes our pets have different ideas. If you have your dog on the beach, ensure that they are supervised and kept away from nests.
Spread the word. Every time you share what you know about sea turtles with your neighbors and guests, you help ensure these magnificent creatures will be around for generations to come.