Since 1990, Santee Cooper has partnered with South Carolina United Turtle Enthusiasts (SCUTE) to help preserve and protect loggerhead sea turtles — South Carolina’s official state reptile. Loggerheads nest on beaches from Virginia to Texas, but they are a threatened species in the Palmetto State. Through public awareness, SCUTE and Santee Cooper hope to keep the future bright for loggerheads — but not literally.
Loggerhead hatchlings emerge from their egg chambers at night and begin their journey to the ocean. Because hatchlings will instinctively head for the horizon with the most light, they often confuse the artificial lighting along the beach with the natural glow of the night sky reflecting off of the water; it can be a fatal mistake for these young turtles. Beachfront lighting can also be disorienting for the female loggerheads that come ashore for nesting.
Each season, SCUTE typically records over 100 loggerhead nests with more than 12,000 eggs along Horry-Georgetown beaches. Volunteers estimate 70 percent of the eggs hatch and reach adulthood. These odds make loggerhead preservation efforts essential for their survival in South Carolina.
Organized in 1990, SCUTE is a group of volunteers dedicated to sea turtle conservation in Georgetown and Horry counties. It is permitted by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources to protect and, if necessary, relocate sea turtle nests, as well as record turtle mortalities through the Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network.
Santee Cooper has supported SCUTE since its inception. This effort encompasses research, management, monitoring and education with local, regional and international communities. Training and support is provided to more than 1,100 volunteers across the coast who protect nests and document sea turtles that wash ashore.
Santee Cooper also helps by shielding beachfront lights and raising awareness through the popular “Lights Out! Sea Turtles Dig the Dark!” campaign. Over the years, chances are you’ve seen one of those iconic bumper stickers along the Grand Strand. This year marks a refreshed campaign complete with beachfront signs and a new decal that continues to encourage people to turn off beachfront lights during loggerhead nesting season.
For a free bumper sticker, email email@example.com.
For additional information on loggerhead sea turtles, contact SCUTE at 843-237-9821 or 843-235-8755; Myrtle Beach State Park at 843-238-0874; Huntington Beach State Park at 843-237-4440; or visit www.dnr.sc.gov/seaturtle.
Keep beaches safe for nesting turtles
- Turn off beachfront lights after dusk during nesting season (May 1.-Oct. 31), and remember indoor lights can also be harmful.
- Remove beach chairs, tents and other equipment at day’s end. These items can entrap nesting females and emerging hatchlings.
- When boating, look out for sea turtles inshore and offshore.
- Beach walkers are encouraged to join SCUTE’s reporting network. Call 843-237-9821 or 843-237-4440 for more information.
- Call your local Santee Cooper retail office to have your outdoor lights shielded.
- Property owners are encouraged to use turtle-friendly lighting. Visit www.dnr.sc.gov/seaturtle for a list of products.