Loggerhead turtles laying more nests on the Grand Strand

An organization that protects loggerhead sea turtles along the Grand Strand says it's having another record breaking year when it comes to nests. In Horry and Georgetown counties there are a total of 175 nests. That's up from last year and part of a trend. The Hobcaw area has the most nests.

"A female turtle matures between 25 and 30 years, close to 30 years so we're hoping that the increase in the number of nests indicates that the effort that we have put in for the last close to 30 years to preserve and to protect the turtle nest sites is making a difference," explained Mary Schneider. "The average number of nests that we're having on Pawleys is increasing compared to ten years ago."

Along the shore of Pawleys Island you can find more than two dozen loggerhead sea turtle nests. They're roped off and have a screen on top to keep predators and people out.

Schneider is a part of of S.C.U.T.E., a group of volunteers dedicated to the preservation of loggerheads.

At sunrise, S.C.U.T.E volunteers walk the beach looking for tracks and a body pit or nest, to make sure it's protected. They also keep count of hatchlings from each nest.

"We're always excited to get a turtle nest. We're always excited to see the tracks of a turtle, the body pit, see the eggs," said Schneider. "We're trying to educate the next generation because when we're through here the turtles are still gonna be coming."

The group is also doing DNA testing on eggs from the nests after they hatch to track the turtles.

S.C.U.T.E. is made up of dedicated volunteers but there are things everyone can do to protect this threatened species when you visit the beach.

"Keep up with your litter. Especially balloons, plastic bags, things like that they look very much like jellyfish once they wind up in the ocean. That's one of the very favorite foods for sea turtles. They'll actively seek those things out and swallow them with pretty devastating consequences to the turtles," explained Ranger Mike Walker with Huntington Beach State Park.

You're also asked to fill any holes that you dig in the sand, that way we aren't interrupting the turtles' life cycle.