One of the most unique and beloved visitors to Hilton Head Island has to be the majestic loggerhead sea turtle. The official reptile of the state of South Carolina, the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) comes to the beaches of Hilton Head Island to lay its eggs every summer from the first week of May to the end of August.
Emerging from the surf at night, a female will lay up to 120 eggs per nest, digging a shallow hole in the beach with her powerful flippers. She then returns to the sea, to be followed 50-60 days later by tiny hatchlings. These hatchlings make their way to the water, using the slope of the beach and light of the moon reflected off the water’s surface to navigate. If they become distracted by lights on land, they can wander off in the wrong direction and be picked off by predators, or simply die of exhaustion.
Because these magnificent creatures are so vulnerable, the Town of Hilton Head Island enacted a Lights Out For Turtles program to encourage properties near the beach to turn off any exterior lighting at night. From 10 p.m. on, May 1 to Oct. 31, the town encourages those living within eyesight of the beach to extinguish outdoor lights and close blinds or drapes. The town also encourages beachgoers to remove beach umbrellas, chairs and garbage, plus fill in any holes, to avoid creating hazards for turtle hatchlings.
To report light violations, call 843-341- 4643 or 843-341- 4642.