Sea Turtle nesting season on Hilton Head Island’s beaches officially starts May 1. Sea Turtle Patrol has already been working for months getting ready. In fact, we started last October, after the last hatchlings headed for the ocean.

Sea Turtle Patrol, operating under an individual permit issued by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), are the only folks permitted to mark nests, move nests if necessary, record and transmit data to SCDNR, and generally handle and supervise all sea turtle beach activities.

Fortunately, Sea Turtle Patrol and our sister organization Turtle Trackers have virtually hundreds of volunteers who work tirelessly year-round to organize, educate and communicate all things turtle.

To start, Sea Turtle Patrol’s four vehicles are serviced and positioned in their launch point at Islanders Beach Park. They are used to drive the full 12 miles of beach every day starting at sunrise, May through October, to locate, manage, assist and record turtle activity. They also play an important role as beach ambassadors, since visible sea turtle activity invariably attracts a curious and excited group of onlookers.

We’re now finalizing this season’s schedule of weekly Turtle Talks at virtually all the oceanfront resorts, as well as public Turtle Talks planned for Lowcountry Celebration Park at Coligny every Monday evening from 8 to 9 p.m., June through August, except for the Fourth of July.

At the same time, Turtle Trackers have been busy making sure plans are in place to keep the beaches clean, educate island guests and serve as “hosts” on the beach to visitors who want information about the sea turtle nesting phenomena occurring right here.

Turtle Trackers also work directly with the oceanfront resorts, villa rental companies, home renters and owners along the beach front to assure everything is in place for successful sea turtle nesting and hatching. This includes distributing hundreds of sisal door mats that read “Lights Out From 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.” in beachfront locations, along with window clings, and signage installed on every beach walkway, reminding beachgoers to keep the beach turtle safe.

Starting in March, Sea Turtle Patrol will host weekly information sessions at USCB for Turtle Trackers. An island-wide kick-off for Sea Turtle season is planned for April 25 at USCB HHI to educate property management companies and hospitality industry colleagues.

Information on all Sea Turtle activities – including how to get involved and how to donate – may be found at seaturtlepatrolHHI.com.

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