Waves from the tropical storm and high tide uncovered a loggerhead turtle nest on Edisto Beach, as seen Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023. Laura Bilson/Staff

SC - Some Lowcountry sea turtle nests, beaches weathered storm better than others

Sea turtle protectors along the Lowcountry’s coastline are finding Tropical Storm Idalia left some beaches better off than others.

The scope of damage to sea turtle nests is just coming into view for many caretakers two days after the storm, said Samantha Pettit, nature interpreter for Edisto Beach State Park. But the condition of nests at places such as Edisto Beach, Folly Beach, Kiawah Island and Cape Romain seem to vary after the storm.

The damage to nests at Edisto, where the beach was pounded by unrelenting waves driven by king tide and a full moon along with the storm, was on par with what was seen after hurricanes Matthew and Irma, said Pettit of the state park’s initial survey.

Park staff have only found a few of their nests after the storm. They recovered about 20 out of the approximate 90 eggs they buried this year, said Pettit. The town of Edisto Island keeps its own nests. It’s unlikely they fared any better, she said.


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“We will still try to find some in the next couple days, but we may have to call those a total loss,” she said. “It’s unfortunate, but it’s part of barrier island life.”

Female sea turtle lay eggs from May to August and the last hatchlings typically emerge late September or early October. The warmer weather this summer likely led to faster hatchings for nests, said Pettit.

Loggerheads are the most common sea turtle that nests in South Carolina, according to the state Department of Natural Resources. The turtles are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and are protected by federal and state laws. Over the past decade, loggerheads have averaged nearly 3,400 nests per year on South Carolina beaches, DNR reports. Each nest contains approximately 120 eggs.

About 60 miles northeast, Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge near Awendaw fared better than expected, said Sarah Dawsey, refuge manager. Friday was the first day of surveying coastal damage at the 66,300-acre wildlife refuge. About 500 of the 3,000 nests that refuge staff placed this year were washed away, she said.

“It was a good year up until now,” Dawsey said. “This is why turtles have so many nests and lay so many eggs.”

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