Loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta Caretta), named for their large heads, are a threatened species that nests yearly at Folly Beach from May 1 through October 31. Each nesting season, these sea turtles crawl onto the beach at Folly to lay their eggs. Females nest between 3 and 6 times in one season and do not return for two to four years to repeat the nesting cycle. They are believed to nest on the beach where they were hatched decades earlier.
Therefore, the sustainability of nesting at Folly depends on adequately managing these nesting sites. The City of Folly Beach has an ordinance to help safeguard the nesting sea turtles and protect hatchlings from artificial light sources. They advise beachgoers to avoid using lights on the beach at night to help prevent the turtles from becoming disoriented. Residents on beachfront properties are also discouraged from using artificial lighting, which can draw the turtles toward the light source and away from the ocean. Additionally, there is the nonprofit Folly Beach Turtle Watch Program, a group of volunteers who educate and inform locals and visitors about how to protect sea turtle nests on Folly from light sources and other disturbances. According to the Sea Turtle Conservancy, human disturbances such as coastal lighting and development are the greatest threat to the loss of sea turtle nesting habitat. Folly County Park has rules designating that any holes dug on the beach must be filled in before departure since they can threaten sea turtles (and humans).
More facts about sea turtles
With heads never hidden (sea turtles cannot retract their heads or limbs under their shells as land turtles can), sea turtles have glided proudly through more than 175 million years of existence. Tragically, the world’s eight species of sea turtles have all suffered severe population declines just in the past 100 years. These majestic reptiles, remarkably adapted to life at sea, are affected directly and indirectly by human activities and deserve our concern and respect.
All sea turtles begin their lives as tiny hatchlings on a beach. They shuffle towards the ocean and venture out, their destinations still somewhat of a mystery to researchers. It is thought that baby turtles spend their earliest, most vulnerable years near large Sargasso weed beds, providing protection and nourishment for growth. They are seen in near-shore feeding grounds when they are approximately the size of a dinner plate. They grow slowly, and, depending on the species, they are between 15 and 50 years old when they reach reproductive maturity. When it is time to nest, the female turtle returns to the beach where she was born to lay her eggs. It is thought that some species live over 100 years, but there is no way to determine the age of a sea turtle from its physical appearance.