Upon completing their inventory of a loggerhead turtle nest, Sea Turtle Patrol volunteers discovered the mama turtle was an over-achiever: She laid 169 eggs. An average nest has about 120 eggs. COURTESY SEA TURTLE PATROL HHI

With 378 turtle nests identified on the island as of July 27, this year has surpassed the last year’s number of nests by nearly 100. More than 5,000 hatchlings have left their nests. The hatchling emergence success rate is 78%.

The first turtle nest was found on Sea Pines beach by Sea Turtle Patrol HHI on May 5, just as the season opened. This nest was also the first to hatch, which is an unusual occurrence. Nest No. 1 not only introduced the beginning of the 2022 nesting season here, it also initiated hatching season.

I was thrilled to have nest No. 1 be so significant this year because we dedicated it in memory of Scott Liggett, the Town’s director of public projects and facilities, and a personal friend and mentor, who passed away in Feb 2021.

Officially, we are midway through the turtle season, which runs May through October, and also in the height of the tourist season with increased beach activity. There are several instances where well-meaning visitors interfered with the hatchling’s journey to the sea.

This usually involves flashlights, both white and red beamed. It is important to understand that the hatchling can see the red light and will be confused if it is pointed directly at them.

The white light will not only confuse them, but also cause them to redirect their path toward the beam. It is illegal to “harass” an endangered species – and leading a hatchling to water with a white beamed flashlight is considered harassment.

Another unintentional interference is standing between the hatchling and the ocean. The hatchlings will do their best to avoid anything in their path, which causes them to crawl away from or parallel to the surf. A 70-mile swim to the Gulf Stream lies ahead of them, and they need to put all of their energy toward that three-day journey.

For those who live in or are visiting beachfront properties, it is critical to turn off the exterior lights facing the ocean and draw the shades on interior lights that can be seen from the beach.

As always, please remember to fill holes on the beach before you leave for the day to avoid trapping hatchlings that fall into the hole before reaching the surf.

You can follow our nest count on our website seaturtlepatrolhhi.com.

Amber Kuehn is executive director of Sea Turtle Patrol HHI, and is the SCDNR permit holder for the island.