Lights out for nesting sea turtles

info@islandpacket.comMay 31, 2013 

Summertime means nesting loggerhead sea turtles, and it also means it's time to turn out or cover up lights along the beachfront.

Hilton Head Island and Beaufort County ordinances require lights that can be seen from the beach to be off or blocked from view from 10 p.m. to dawn this time of year.

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.

Turtles lay their eggs from May to mid-August. The eggs hatch from July to October.

Volunteers with local turtle watch programs last week reported the first of this season's nests. Two nests have been located on Hilton Head Island beaches and two on Fripp Island.

It's going to be hard to beat last year's numbers. A record number of sea turtle nests were reported in South Carolina, according to data from the state Department of Natural Resources. Of 4,604 loggerhead sea turtle nests counted, 544 were on Hilton Head, Daufuskie and Fripp islands and at Hunting Island State Park.

The Coastal Discovery Museum suggests some other ways you can help nesting turtles and their hatchlings: Remove beach litter. Fill in sand holes and smooth sand castles. Leave nest sites undisturbed. Don't shine flashlights or take flash photographs of nesting turtles. Report injured turtles.

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