Seven Superlatives for a Stellar Sea Turtle Season

Seven Superlatives for a Stellar Sea Turtle Season

A volunteer in Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge escorted this straggler loggerhead hatchling to the ocean during a 2016 nest inventory. (Photo: E. Weeks/SCDNR)

A volunteer in Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge escorted this straggler loggerhead hatchling to the ocean during a 2016 nest inventory. (Photo: E. Weeks/SCDNR)

The start of November means a couple things: the official end of sea turtle season in South Carolina, and a chance to reflect on what’s been an exceptional season for the loggerhead, our state reptile.

Over a hundred SCDNR sea turtle volunteers, staff, and partners recently gathered at our Marine Resources Center in Charleston to celebrate the end of the season, catch up with fellow turtlers, and enjoy an oyster roast and impressive potluck spread.

This year, the SCDNR sea turtle team also handed out seven superlatives to highlight just a fraction of the hard work volunteer teams put into nest protection and conservation this year. Check out these fun facts from the 2016 season, and then learn more here!

Sea turtle volunteers from across the state chow down at a recent end-of-year appreciation party.

Sea turtle volunteers from across the state chow down at a recent end-of-year appreciation party.

Most Volunteer Hours

Seabrook Island's turtle team knocked it out of the park this year with 2,464 volunteer hours. Did we mention that many volunteer hours are clocked before dawn?

Largest Volunteer Group

Kiawah Island's turtle team boasted 247 volunteers this year!

Most Strandings

Hilton Head Island experienced 24 strandings this year. A stranding is any sick, injured, or dead sea turtle found on a beach or in a waterway -- so high stranding numbers are not something we'd ordinarily want to celebrate. However, this season brought an above-average number of strandings (220, exceeding the yearly average of 125), and our volunteers, staff, and partners really stepped up to the challenge of responding to these emergencies, transporting live-stranded turtles for treatment at the SC Aquarium, and necropsying dead turtles to learn more about the threats that face these animals. 

Strangest Stranding

North Myrtle Beach took home the "strangest stranding" superlative for "Briar," a loggerhead that washed ashore and made an impressive turnaround from near death to complete recovery at the SC Aquarium. Read more about Briar's interesting story here.

A loggerhead hatchling makes its way to the Atlantic at Botany Bay Plantation on Edisto Island. (Photo: E. Weeks/SCDNR)

A loggerhead hatchling makes its way to the Atlantic at Botany Bay Plantation on Edisto Island. (Photo: E. Weeks/SCDNR)

Greatest Reduction in Predation

Over the past five years, 79% of the nests on Pritchard's Island experienced predation. Raccoons and coyotes are the primary predators of sea turtle nests in South Carolina. But thanks to a new predator management plan, Pritchard's experienced predation on only 5% of its nests this year.

Greatest Percent Increase in Nesting

Many beaches experienced increased nesting numbers in this record-breaking year, but the team that monitors Waties Island saw a 466% increase, from 6 nests in 2015 to to 28 nests in 2016. 

100% Hatch Success for At Least One Nest

The teams at Botany Plantation, Cape Island, Capers Island, Harbor Island, and South Island all boasted at least one nest in which 100% of the eggs laid successfully hatched.

Ashby Gale, Nona Rowcliffe, Sherry Fox, Craig Croker, Debbie Drinkwater, Leah Schwartzentruber, and Karen Beshears rep Edisto Beach State Park.

Ashby Gale, Nona Rowcliffe, Sherry Fox, Craig Croker, Debbie Drinkwater, Leah Schwartzentruber, and Karen Beshears rep Edisto Beach State Park.

One Bonus Superlative – Most Original Costume

Edisto Beach State Park staff and volunteers took home the gold for the Edisto-By-Numbers group costume they wore to commemorate their eventful sea turtle nesting season. Here are the figures their costumes are depicting:

468 eggs predated on Edisto's beach
2 albino hatchlings observed
240 nests total
4521 visitors reached regarding sea turtles
26,627 eggs laid on Edisto's beach
1 daytime nesting turtle
25 nests relocated

Thanks to all of the dedicate and intrepid volunteers who contributed to sea turtle nest protection and conservation this year!

SCDNR sea turtle program coordinator Michelle Pate and Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge volunteer Reyne Miller sort through the contents of a loggerhead nest on Cape Island. (Photo: E. Weeks/SCDNR)

SCDNR sea turtle program coordinator Michelle Pate and Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge volunteer Reyne Miller sort through the contents of a loggerhead nest on Cape Island. (Photo: E. Weeks/SCDNR)

Want to get involved as a sea turtle volunteer? Learn more and find a volunteer group near you.

SC Waters Cool, but Straggler Manatees Remain

SC Waters Cool, but Straggler Manatees Remain

Botany Bay Beach Access to Remain Closed

Botany Bay Beach Access to Remain Closed