Anyone who’s spent significant time on Kiawah Island can tell you how dearly the community holds its loggerhead turtles. There’s a patrol dedicated to them. A restaurant named after them. Along with our dune-frolicking deer, golf-course-wandering alligators, and night-prowling bobcats, they’re one of the island’s beloved natural mascots.
The summer is an especially important time for the island—and not just because it’s the best time to work on your sun tan. May begins the nesting season for loggerheads, and July to October is loggerhead turtle hatching season.
Read on to learn more about why Kiawah loves loggerheads and how you can see nesting and hatching season in action.
Why are loggerhead turtles so special?
Loggerhead turtles are an endangered species. They’re one of just seven marine turtle species still on earth today. And they’re considerable creatures—an adult loggerhead can grow to three feet long, 350 pounds in weight, and 65 years old. In fact, if you’re lucky enough to spot a grown loggerhead mama on the sand, chances are she’s already spent over 30 years out at sea. Plus, they’re epic adventurers. Once they make their way to the tide, the loggerhead turtles that hatch on Kiawah Island may travel all the way across the world. Loggerheads often hitch a ride on floating sargassum mats all the way to the Azores or Mediterranean.
When do Kiawah Island’s loggerhead turtles hatch?
From mid-May to mid-August, adult female loggerheads climb ashore at night to lay their eggs near the dunes. They use their hind flippers to dig a nest, deposit usually somewhere around 120 eggs, and cover it back up to hide it from predators. The eggs incubate here for about 90 days before hatching. Once they’re ready, all of the tiny baby loggerheads work together to dig up through the sand and out into the world. Then, they make their very first journey: the one across Kiawah Island’s beach to the ocean.
What can I do to help the loggerhead turtles?
- Keep the beach clean. Garbage ends up in the oceans, and, sadly, often in the bellies of loggerhead turtles where it can cause serious damage.
- Don’t dig. Playing in the sand is fun, but digging large holes is not allowed on the Kiawah Island beach during nesting season. They can make the journey from tideline to dunes difficult for loggerhead mamas and especially for loggerhead turtle hatchlings.
- Give loggerhead turtles space. Let them do their thing—they’ve been doing it for millions of years! And never, ever pick up a loggerhead turtle hatchling—no matter how cute it is.
- Turn off your lights. Artificial lights can disorient turtles and derail them from their journey back to the ocean. If you’re in an oceanfront home during nesting season, keep your beach-facing lights turned off. And if you’re exploring the beaches by night, special filters are available for your flashlights and cell phones at the Nature Center. Please avoid ever shining lights directly at a sea turtle.
- Support the turtle patrol. Kiawah Island’s loggerhead turtles and hatchlings depend on a group of trained volunteers to help them survive from egg to ocean. With their help, about 75% of hatchlings make it to the Atlantic. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.