Daufuskie’s beach is about four miles long and has plenty of room for Loggerhead turtles to lay their nests.
It is so close that the sea turtle patrol staff on the south end of Hilton Head can wave at the sea turtle patrol staff on Daufuskie.
The nest monitoring permit holder on Daufuskie Island is Tammy Helmuth. She has 12 volunteers who share the duties of monitoring the beach for sea turtle nests. These volunteers fund their own project needs. They supply poles to mark the nests, gas for the four-wheeler, buckets, latex gloves, etc. Sea turtle nest monitoring officially began in 2006 on Daufuskie.
The Daufuskie team relocates nests them to higher ground for their protection. On this relatively small stretch of beach, there are still issues with changing tides, beachfront lighting and disorientation of hatchlings.
Turtle hatching season begins in July and continues through October.
Beachfront lighting and noise discourage a female sea turtle from nesting and confuse hatchlings emerging from the sand. Hatchling sea turtles follow the brightest light visible at night when leaving the nest. Naturally, they use the glow of the moon over the ocean as their cue. Artificial light is always brighter than moonglow, causing hatchlings to move away from the ocean and toward commercial and residential exterior lights.
All sea turtle monitoring programs on South Carolina beaches are volunteer efforts, with the exception of the Hilton Head Island Sea Turtle Protection Project. Funding can be sparse at times for these volunteer programs. Spartina Marine Education Charters donated decals for the nest marker poles on Daufuskie Island, and some supplies are provided by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.
Daufuskie Island is a special place.
There are no traffic lights and hardly any cars. Homes range from one-room shanties on dirt roads to fine homes with paved streets in Haig Point. If you have ever had the privilege of being on the Island at night, you will feel like you are on a camping trip and got lost in the woods…a hard experience to find these days. I love it! It is so close, yet feels so far away, and is only accessible by boat.
by Amber Kuehn