HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (WSAV) — If you take a stroll across the beaches on Hilton Head Island, you’ll notice some orange signs and a barrier around them. Each protects more than a hundred sea turtle eggs.
“We’re having hatching all over the place,” said Amber Kuehn, director of Hilton Head Island’s Sea Turtle Patrol. “There are thousands of hatchlings leaving the beach on Hilton Head,”
So far this year, the group’s data shows that 10,130 baby sea turtles have been hatched.
A couple of years ago, the town signed an ordinance meant to help preserve the nests. Now, Kuehn said she’s finally seeing the impacts of those changes.
Kuehn said turning off your lights is crucial. It helps the baby turtles find the ocean and not end up in your backyard.
“It was revised to include interior lights, which on these glass front houses definitely makes a difference,” Kuehn said. “So the light coming into the house has to be cut down by 50%, and the lights on the outside need to be downward facing and shielded.”
Beachgoers also can’t dig holes deeper than a foot, and when they leave, they have to refill those holes. Also, nothing can be left on the beach overnight, and sandcastles have to be torn down 30 minutes before sunset.
Kuehn said the rules have made the journey to the ocean much easier for baby sea turtles.
Her message is simple, leave only your footprints behind.
“Particular parts of the beach that are heavily trafficked tend to be looking like a landmine area, so if we could just do our best to fill in,” Kuehn said. “Leave it the way we found it. I think that would be more than enough to help these hatchlings make it to the water.”
Nesting season is coming to an end on the island, and so far data shows there have been 343 nests this season. Next up is the hatching season, which lasts through October.