When Visiting Charleston Beaches, Watch for Turtles


nesting sea turtle

A mother turtle finishes covering her nest with sand. Photo by Cindy Blanton of the Folly Beach Turtle Watch Program

The area’s first loggerhead sea turtle lumbered onto the shore at Seabrook Island to lay the first eggs of the nesting season. The mother sea turtle deposited her 166 eggs appropriately on Mother’s Day, which is usually the time of year the first nests are discovered on the beaches.

Sea turtle nesting season continues through August. Hatchings occur between July and October. According to this article from The Post and Courier, typically more than a thousand nests are laid along the state’s 190-mile shoreline, making South Carolina the second largest nesting state after Florida.

As you’re visiting Charleston’s area beaches, be careful of the sea turtle nests and never disturb a nest of eggs or a nesting mother turtle.

Volunteers patrol local beaches looking for the tell-tale tracks that indicate a mother turtle came ashore during the night. Volunteers may relocate the nest if it is in a precarious location threatened by people or tides. Usually the nests are marked so beachgoers know to avoid that area.

Local turtle watch groups include the Folly Beach Turtle Watch Program, Seabrook Island Turtle Patrol, Kiawah Island Turtle Patrol and the Island Turtle Team that patrols the Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island. Check out the teams’ websites for reports of new nests and for successful hatchings later this summer and into the fall.

Here are some more tips from the Seabrook Island Turtle Patrol about how you can help protect these great sea creatures and their babies:

  • Stay away from nesting turtles and hatchlings.
  • Fill in any holes you made on the beach.
  • If you’re staying on the beach, turn off lights visible from the beach by 10 p.m. from May through October. You don’t want the turtles to be confused by man-made lights when they really are seeking out the light of the moon.
  • Do not use flashlights or camera flashes around turtles or hatchlings.
  • Do not leave trash on the beach; plastics look like food to sea turtles.