A nesting sea turtle emerges from the ocean and attempts to make its way up the beach, but a giant sandcastle startles the turtle, forcing it to return to the ocean without laying its eggs. This is what Amber Kuehn, director of Spartina Sea Turtle Stranding Response, calls a “false crawl.”
An increase in large sandcastles and holes on Hilton Head Island beaches are creating more opportunities for false crawls, according to Kuehn.
“I’ve been patrolling the beach for 10 years, and suddenly we’re starting to see these very large holes,” Kuehn said. “... People are getting very ambitious with their holes and sandcastles.
“They have to do it with a garden spade, you can’t (make the massive holes and structures) with a small plastic bucket shovel.”
In order to help curb the problem, Spartina Sea Turtle Stranding Response is gathering community members for a new program, Hole Patrol.
High schools students looking for volunteer hours and Sea Pines residents involved in the organization Turtle Trackers have already offered to help.
“We’re trying to get people involved so they’ll feel more attached to the cause, they can relate, put their hands on it and make a difference,” Kuehn said.
The turtle patrol team that goes out every morning to monitor the nesting turtles and hatchlings will text Kuehn, telling her where they see massive holes and sandcastles. Then Kuehn will start the phone tree and assign a volunteer to flatten out the hole or sandcastle.
“Anyone who wants to be involved in it can be,” Kuehn said.
The hatching baby turtles face the biggest threat due to the holes, according to Kuehn, who called the holes “a booby trap.”
The first sea turtle eggs were laid on May 4 on Hilton Head, so the first baby turtles are expected to hatch the first week of July, Kuehn said.
So far this season, 26 sea turtles have nested on Hilton Head Island.
Interested in Joining Hole Patrol? Email firstname.lastname@example.org