Information for the Media
Globally, there are seven species of sea turtles, four of which naturally inhabit South Carolina's nearshore coastal waters and inshore estuaries from April - November. These four species are the loggerhead, Kemp's ridley, leatherback and green sea turtles. All species of sea turtles are either listed as endangered (a species that is in danger of becoming extinct) or threatened (a species that is likely to become endangered) and are protected by international, federal and state laws. Please refer to the web pages on each of these species for more specific information.
Loggerhead nesting season runs from May - October. Nests are laid on all barrier islands in South Carolina. Loggerheads comprise the majority of sea turtle nesting in the state while Kemp's ridleys, leatherbacks and greens are infrequent nesters. There are two components to the nesting season: nest laying (egg deposition) and hatching. Loggerheads lay nests from May to mid-August while hatchlings emerge from the nests (after incubating) July - October. An adult female loggerhead emerges from the ocean at night and lays a nest with an average of 120 eggs. The eggs incubate 55 - 60 days. One individual female loggerhead will lay ~ four nests per season with two week intervals between each nest. She will nest (reproduce) approximately every 2.5 to 3 years. So one individual female does not nest every year. This interval between nesting seasons creates a natural fluctuation of high, medium and low nesting years. Since the nesting fluctuates from year to year naturally, it is difficult to assess nesting population changes over the short-term. Please refer to the Sea Turtle Nesting page for more information on long-term nesting trends. Members of the SCDNR Sea Turtle Nest Protection Projects manage, monitor and inventory nests that are laid. See more on this below.
The other main management component of the program is sea turtle stranding response. All four species of sea turtles mentioned above strand in South Carolina. A sea turtle stranding is one that washes up alive or dead on the beach. The majority of strandings are dead when they wash up. SCDNR stranding network members collect standardized data on these strandings. See more on this below. If the stranding is fresh, the stranding is salvaged by SCDNR for necropsy. For the current number of sea turtle strandings this year please refer to the box on the left-hand side of this page. For more information on sea turtle strandings, please refer to our Stranding Network page.
If the turtle strands alive, SCDNR transports the sea turtle to the SC Aquarium Sea Turtle Rescue Program. SCDNR issues a permit that authorizes the aquarium to provide rehablitation to these sick or injured animals. After successful rehabilitation, these animals are released back into the wild.
Our program publishes a semiannual newsletter entitled Loggerheadlines. This newsletter offers more detailed information on current sea turtle news in South Carolina and along the southeastern United States. Current and archived issues are available on the Loggerheadlines page.
SCDNR permits, trains and manages 30+ sea turtle nest protection projects along the coast. Permits are also issued to individuals that serve on the South Carolina Sea Turtle Salvage and Stranding Network. These two groups of individuals make up a small army of about 1,100 and provide relentless support of the Marine Turtle Conservation Program. For more information, please visit our Volunteer Program page. Individual project web sites are also available on this page.
When including SCDNR information in an article or news clip, please promote our program by referring the public to our sea turtle web site: http://www.dnr.sc.gov/seaturtle/. They can also promote our program by purchasing an endangered species license plate. Information about this plate is available on the South Carolina DMV web site: http://www.dnr.sc.gov/admin/endangeredplate.html. Finally, the public is encouraged to report live healthy sea turtles here: http://www.seaturtle.org/istor/. For dead, injured or sick sea turtles, please contact the SCDNR Hotline at 1-800-922-5431.