It takes dozens of volunteers to keep up with patrolling island beaches to protect loggerheads and pick up litter. COURTESY SEA TURTLE PATROL

Loggerhead turtles won’t be returning to Hilton Head Island until May, but there is ever so much to do right now to assure a successful season. Sea Turtle Patrol and Turtle Trackers are already busy getting ready to welcome and protect our 2022 turtle visitors.

The Sea Turtle Patrol HHI, which monitors the beaches under a permit from SCDNR, is readying equipment and vehicles needed to patrol the island’s 14 miles of beach every day from May through October to protect the nesting and then the hatching sea turtles.

The Turtle Trackers, a virtual army of volunteers, undertake comprehensive education programs to inform islanders and tourists so that they are aware of what it takes to protect the sea turtles – and how to enjoy this exciting natural phenomenon.

Resorts and hotels are supplied with educational materials for their staff, including window clings that remind folks along the ocean to turn down their lights after 10 p.m. Suggestions on how to keep the beach turtle-safe – clean, flat and dark – are shared with management and staff. Education is the key for a successful turtle season. Window clings are also placed in many retail shops throughout the island.

Along the oceanfront, homeowners and rental home companies are reminded of the Town of Hilton Head’s light ordinance. Hundreds of “Lights Out After Dark” door mats will be distributed to oceanfront homes and villas to remind guests and residents.

Stickers are prepared to be adhered to thousands of pizza boxes used by Giuseppe’s Sea Pines during the “season.” Green turtle logo signs will be in place along every beach walk and access point

Learning about loggerheads has become an increasingly popular activity among visiting families. Most have never visited a protected area for an endangered species. Indeed, many folks plan their visits to Hilton Head to coincide with our nesting and hatching season. Educational presentations are scheduled at local resorts and Lowcountry Celebration Park so that visitors can attend “Turtle Talks” almost every evening during the season. 

Beach sweeps are already scheduled and will be held throughout the year. Of course, the Turtle Trackers sweep their assigned beaches – every day, mornings and evenings – during the turtle season. Many guests who observe their efforts join in as well.

And there’s even more to do. Volunteers are preparing materials for the Learning Stations that are found at the Salty Dog in South Beach, in Shelter Cove Harbour, and at special events through the turtle season.

QR code stickers that are placed on signs and materials enable tourists – and locals – to visit the Sea Turtle Patrol HHI and Turtle Trackers websites to learn more, get involved, support our efforts,  and protect the sea turtles.

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