The rescue last week of a wayward nesting loggerhead sea turtle, which ended up in a Port Royal Plantation swimming pool on Hilton Head Island rather than in the ocean, is a reminder that we should do all we can to help -- or at least not hinder -- these creatures.
Amy Tressler of the Coastal Discovery Museum's Sea Turtle Protection Program says it's rare for adult turtles to get disoriented, and it's not clear what led this turtle astray.
Turtles use light glinting off the water to guide them to the sea. When hatchlings emerge from the nest they are attracted to the blue and green wavelengths of light reflected off the ocean through celestial light. Lights on land can lead them away from that natural light and often to their doom.
Tressler and Fire Chief Jeff Hartberger of the Hilton Head Island Fire & Rescue Division, which helped get the turtle back to the sea, urged everyone to obey the town ordinance requiring lights that can be seen from the beach to be turned off or shielded from 10 p.m. until dawn during the nesting season. That includes interior lights. Beachfront properties in unincorporated Beaufort County are subject to the same rules.
Turtles lay their eggs from May to mid-August. The eggs hatch from July to October.
It's early in the season, but more than 170 nests have been located, according to the state Department of Natural Resource's Sea Turtle Nest Monitoring System.
On Hilton Head, 89 nests have been reported, according to the seaturtle.org website. In 2011, 324 nests were located, a big leap up from 2010's 239 nests. On Harbor Island, 18 nests have been reported. In 2011, 68 nests were found, more than twice the 30 nests reported in 2010. On Hunting Island, 43 nests have been reported. In 2011, 68 nests were reported, a big drop from the 111 nests reported in 2010. On Daufuskie Island, 26 nests have been reported so far. In 2011, 69 nests were reported, up slightly from the 65 nests reported in 2010.
The Coastal Discovery Museum suggests some other ways you can help nesting turtles and their hatchlings: