By HEATHER RUPPE
A social media post made by a proactive Edisto Beach sea-turtle group circled the Web last weekend when an unknown person dug into two sea turtle nests along the beach, disrupting the newly-laid eggs and violating federal law.
The Facebook post was made by the Edisto Beach Loggerhead Turtle Project at about 7 a.m. on July 24th. The Edisto Beach Loggerhead Turtle Project is a group of trained volunteers who work with state wildlife authorities to protect sea turtle nests and new hatchlings. The group also helps to count nests, monitor turtle crawls and protect nests along the beach.
In their social media post, the group’s volunteers discovered that two sea turtle nests had been “dug into by someone.” The volunteers called their early-morning find “extremely disappointing.”
“After all the beauty we shared this morning, we come with extremely disappointing news and an alert! Last night, we had 2 nests dug into by someone,” the post reads.
“ … We work diligently during turtle season as well as throughout the year to prepare for the season. One of the nests had just hatched before dark making this even more disturbing!” according to the post.
Disturbing a nesting sea turtle or its nest is not only a violation of federal law, but it is also a violation of local Edisto Beach ordinances.
Loggerhead Turtles are protected under federal law by the Department of Natural Resources.
There are four species of sea turtles found in South Carolina and each of these species are protected by state and federal laws, as they are considered endangered.
Additionally, all species of sea turtles in South Carolina are also protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
These peaceful giants are also protected under Edisto Beach law, with local ordinances in place to protect nesting moms and newly-born hatchlings.
Sea Turtles are also a beloved and almost iconic sea figure along the local shore, with most residents aware of how to care for them during nesting season: sea turtle nesting season in South Carolina runs from May 1st through Oct. 31st.
As of press deadline on Tuesday, officials with the patrol had not responding to our attempts to reach them. However, Edisto Beach Police Chief Steve Miano did confirm on Monday that there is an open investigation into this matter.
According to the sea turtle volunteer’s social media post, anyone with information about who disturbed the nests is asked to call 911.
Moreover, anyone who sees a person disturbing a nest is also called to call 911.
Once a sea turtle nest is found along the beach, volunteers protect it by putting up a sign. These volunteers also usually alert people – and dog owners – to the nest by placing tape around it.
Sea Turtle Nesting Tips
The season runs along South Carolina’s coast from May 1 through Oct. 31st.
During this time at any beach in South Carolina, residents and tourists are asked to follow these tips. Most of these “tips” are also actual ordinances in effect by Edisto Beach Town Council. Violators of these ordinances do face local fines.
Never disturb a turtle crawling to or from the ocean or laying eggs. If nesting is disrupted, the turtle may not lay her eggs at all or may not finish camouflaging her nest.
Stay at least 30 feet away from any turtle you see. If you find yourself closer, don’t touch! Sea turtles can bite, and they have extremely powerful jaws.
Don’t shine lights on the beach at night or take flash photography. This can frighten away nesting females and make it harder for hatchlings to find the sea.
Turn off all porch lights at night, especially on houses and cars along the front beach. This is an Edisto ordinance.
Do not disturb any nests you might find with markers or protective screening.
Keep the beach clean. Don’t drop any litter, and help out by picking up after others if you see trash.
Fill in all holes left on the beach during the day. These can trap sea turtles.