Turtle nest monitored by SCUTE has high success rate

SCUTE volunteer do an inventory check on a nest on Pawleys Island. / Lisa Edge

There's plenty of wildlife on the beach on any given day, but a crowd of about 30 people anxiously awaited the possibility of seeing newly hatched loggerhead turtles Thursday evening on Pawleys Island.

Pam Hughes is one of those onlookers. She's been fortunate enough to see baby turtles make their way to the shore in the past. "It's just like front row seats. As someone said when I was at the last one that were lives ones, 'you know this is just like National Geographic.'"

Hughes comes out to watch inventories like the one done by volunteers with South Carolina United Turtle Enthusiasts, or SCUTE for short.

This particular nest, just north of 3rd Street, had to be moved. This gives SCUTE volunteers an opportunity to gain an accurate number of how many hatched. Nests are moved when they are in someone's walkway or it lays too low on the tide.

"When a nest hatches we give them three nights to come out by themselves if there are any straglers. We want it to be as natural as possible," said SCUTE volunteer Mary Schneider. "We go in and we count the empty shells that gives us a percentage of hatchlings that succeeded in getting out of the nest and getting to the ocean hopefully."

"It's very interesting they're setting records this year in terms of the total number of turtles that have nested in this area. They're hoping to make the 200 mark," added Hughes.

And with today's inventory count, SCUTE volunteers will likely see that goal met. This nest had a nearly perfect success rate. But the crowd did not get to see any live turtles that hadn't quite made it to the ocean.

SCUTE volunteers encourage the community to watch inventories like this one.

"That is our opportunity to educate them and particularly the children. You know they're the next generation that's going to care for these animals and so we want them to be enthusiastic about doing the right thing for the turtles. Bringing in their plastic bags, take them off the beach, filling in their holes, picking up their chairs, their tents and their toys, bringing them in," said Schneider.

Hughes agreed, "The kids need to see this and it's not just from an educational, it's from an ecological standpoint that there's things that we need to do for the planet and this is one of them."

If you want to watch an inventory and possibly see some live baby turtles SCUTE is doing another inventory Friday night at 6:00. They'll be just South of the Pawleys Island pier.