Hilton Head firefighters rescue sea turtle lost in the dunes

info@islandpacket.comJuly 29, 2013 

Hilton Head Island firefighters responded to a different sort of emergency Monday morning: A sea turtle stranded in the dunes.

Amber Kuehn, the sea turtle protection project manager for the Coastal Discovery Museum, said she and staff member Leigh West discovered the turtle at about 7 a.m. near the Marriott's Grande Ocean during their regular beach walk.

The loggerhead was healthy, she said, but was turned around.

"She had just nested," Kuehn said. "Instead of getting back to the water, she headed up into the dune for whatever reason."

Kuehn and West couldn't lift the turtle -- adult loggerheads typically weigh about 400 pounds -- and lifeguards wouldn't be on the beach for another hour or so, she said. So, they called the fire department.

"We couldn't leave (her) in the dune because she's cold blooded," Kuehn said. "The sun would make her overheat."

Four firefighters put the turtle in a sling and walked her to the water's edge. Hilton Head Island Fire and Rescue Department spokeswoman Joheida Fister said it took about 20 minutes to get the turtle back where she belonged.

This isn't the first time firefighters have helped rescue a turtle, Fister said.

Last year, they rescued a turtle from a Port Royal Plantation swimming pool.

Kuehn said the turtle laid the 315th nest of the season on Hilton Head. The island's record is 324 nests.

The nesting season typically lasts from mid-May to mid-August.

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