Sea Turtle Protection

Lights Out for Turtles!

The Loggerhead sea turtle is the state reptile of South Carolina and the most common sea turtle nester along our shores. They are easily recognizable by the large size of their head in relation to their body and their brownish or yellow skin.

Facts about Sea Turtles

Kemp Ridely Sea Turtle in the sand
  • Adults have top shells that measure from 30-42 inches in length and usually weigh up to 400 pounds.
  • Males are larger than females, and are not known to come ashore once they leave their beach of birth.

Sea Turtle Nesting Season

Adult Loggerhead Sea Turtle
  • Females usually begin to nest the first or second week in May.
  • The nesting season usually ends by the end of August.
  • Females usually emerge to nest at night and lay an average of 120 eggs per nest.
    • They locate an appropriate nest site by judging the temperature and moisture of the sand.
    • The female uses her rear flippers alternately to excavate a nest; when egg laying is completed, she covers the nest cavity, compacts the sand with the weight of her body and throws sand around with her front flippers.
    • Sea Turtle Nest Sign and barrier
    • She then returns to the sea.

During nesting season, surveys are conducted daily by volunteer groups to monitor, record and study all sea turtle nesting activity along the Town's beach.

  • All nests are marked off with stakes, flagging tape, and a sign to keep the area protected so the eggs are safe during the incubation period.

What happens after the nest is laid?

Sea Turtle Hatchlings in the sand
  • The eggs incubate for 50-60 days, during which time the sex of the embryos is determined by the temperature in the nest; warmer temperatures produce females, cooler temperatures produce males.
  • As the young begin to hatch, they cooperate in digging towards the surface, and emerge when the sand temperatures cool and daylight fades.
    • They navigate to the ocean by following the downward slope of the beach and skylight reflected off the ocean's surface.
    • Landward lights that are brighter than this natural light disorient the hatchlings and cause them to move inland, where they often die from dehydration and exhaustion, drown in pools, are hit by cars, or are taken by predators.

Endangered Species? How can I help?

Loggerheads are listed as a threatened species by both the federal government and the state of South Carolina.

Sea Turtle Hatchlings heading to sea at sunrise

Many people who read about the plight of endangered or threatened species feel the problems these species face are too great for them to be able to help. But there are many very simple things we can do to promote the survival of Loggerheads on Hilton Head Island:

  • If your building is visible from the beach, turn off your outside lights at 10 pm May 1st - October 31st.
  • If any of your interior lights are visible from the beach or cast light on the beach, close blinds or drapes at 10 pm or turn lights off.
  • turtle tracks turning around due to Beach Canopy left on beach
  • Never leave beach umbrellas, chairs, or any other beach accessories on the beach overnight. Nesting female turtles may get tangled in them, and for hatchlings they are often impassable and disorienting.
  • If you are digging holes in the beach or building sand castles, please fill in holes and flatten sand castles before leaving the beach.
    • Both of these things can be death traps for hatchlings that stumble into them.
  • Place all trash and recyclables in the appropriate receptacles.
  • Never disturb a sea turtle nest, a nesting sea turtle or a hatchling.


Report Dead, Injured or Harassed Sea Turtles

  • SC Department of Natural Resources Hotline
  • 1-800-922-5431

Report Light Violations

  • Hilton Head Island Code Enforcment Officers
  • 843-341-4600

Report Light Violations