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Some of the summer visitors we most look forward to are due to start arriving in the coming weeks. It's nesting season for loggerhead turtles, and we're fortunate to be among the north and mid-Atlantic sites favored by loggerheads. Our friends at the Seabrook Island Turle Patrol are preparing for the arrivals, with the season officially starting on May 1st and continuing through September.

Loggerheads are named for their large heads and powerful jaws that allow them to crack through the shells of crabs, whelks and conch on their carnivorous diet. Except for the brief time females dig and lay their nests, loggerheads spend all their time in the oceans and coastal waters on both sides of the Atlantic, the Pacific, and in the eastern Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean, migrating thousands of miles during their life spans, which an be up to eighty years. Females lay eggs every two to three years and return to the general area they themselves hatched from to dig their nests. On our side of the Atlantic, south Florida typically ranks each year with the highest number of nests, up to 10,000 of them in some years. The South Carolina coast averages six-thousand or so sites annually. Here on Seabrook Island, 2020 was a peak year for nesting sites, with more than ninety nests identified. Last year, tropical storm Idalia washed away many nests.

Loggerhead populations have been in decline for some years worldwide, although the NOAA recently reported that the slide seems to have slowed in some parts of the globe. Dangers to loggerheads include as fishing boat bycatch, loss of nesting habitat due to coastal development, and marine pollution and trash. That's all on top of the hazardous journey to the ocean that hatchlings must make under the watchful eyes of predators like shorebirds, coyotes and foxes. Hatchlings, who navigate from nests to the water by fixing on the brightest light of the horizon, can become disoriented by bright lighting from beachside homes and roadways, causing them to head landward instead of seaward.

You can help our loggerheads survive by observing "lights out" on the beach, taking trash away with you when you leave the beach, and filling in any holes in the sand that can trap a female turtle. Even better, join the Turtle Patrol!

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