Our South Carolina coast is the landing place for many migratory species, but one of our coolest visitors is the Loggerhead Sea Turtle! Although many different species travel through our waters, this marine creature is actually our state reptile. As the largest of all hard-shelled turtles, they grow to about 250 pounds, but the largest ones found have been over one thousand pounds! Their names come from their large heads and strong jaw muscles and their shells are reddish-brown and shaped like a heart—which may explain why we love them so much!
As cool as these species look, they have something else going for them. The Loggerhead is a “keystone species.” This means that they are crucial to their ecosystem. For example, these turtles’ food sources are invertebrates, which get digested and fall back to the ocean floor as a calcium resource for many other animals. Predators often eat the loggerhead hatchlings and more than a hundred species of barnacles, crabs, and algae live on the Loggerhead’s shell.
These turtles prefer our warm, coastal waters, and since Loggerhead females return to the beach where they hatched to lay their eggs, we see generations of these reptiles every year—right on our coast! This leaves us with the huge responsibility of protecting these creatures as their population continues to decrease. This is mainly due to pollutions, fishing, and developments on their breeding grounds, but the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources has a great conservation program in place.
This includes monitoring sea turtle nests, ensuring fishing guidelines are followed and providing rehabilitation with our local aquariums. Here are some additional things you can do to help keep this majestic turtle safe and swimming in our waters:
- If you see a sea turtle or a nest in the sand, it’s best just to leave them both alone. A female sea turtle could feel threatened by your presence and return to the ocean without laying her eggs. A damaged nest could also cause problems for the hatching babies.
- Remember to fill in any holes you’ve dug in the sand. When the baby turtles hatch, one could fall in and become trapped on their way to the ocean.
- Pick up all trash on the beach so that sea turtles don’t mistake plastics for food, making them sick.
- Lastly, turn off beachfront lights after 10 pm. The moon’s reflection on the ocean is used by the mother turtle or the newly-hatched babies to find their way into the water!
Interested in learning more about the Loggerhead Sea Turtle? Visit the websites below.