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Jun 1, 2024

The Next Generation: Where There Are Moms, There Are Children

Amber Kuehn

Photography By

Help save our sea turtles. Remember to: Keep our beach clean, flat, and dark • Use a red flashlight on your nighttime beach walks • Fill holes dug in the sand • Knock down sandcastles before leaving the beach • Remove all personal belongings • Place litter in the proper receptacles

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With one month of sea turtle patrol complete, we have successfully accomplished the start to the sea turtle season. There are five months to go, keeping pace with nesting females and hatchlings. We expect around 300 nests this season. 

This is the fun part! The hard work happens when the sea turtles have left our beaches. The grant applications and program management planning escalate. The funding that makes all of this happen is secured in the months when turtles are favoring warmer currents and the last hatchling has left the beach to embark on a 30-year journey at sea. 

We couldn’t do what we do without the amazing work of Sea Turtle Patrol HHI team members.

There are 20 volunteers on Sea Turtle Patrol HHI, but that is not the extent of our helpers. There are 50 members of the newly formed Sea Turtle Patrol Auxiliary who participate in the many outreach programs that complete the mission of our nonprofit organization. 

The Auxiliary teams include community presence, docents, sand management, administrative and fundraising, classroom, rental outreach, sea turtle friendly certified, and pocket beach walkers. The goal for this inaugural season with the Auxiliary is to keep a small group educated and passionate about the sea turtles. Each individual has their own talent to share. 

Supportive kids wish their mom luck on the Mom’s Day 5K; All moms are winners! 

We introduced the program in February and continue to meet monthly. The group has been very enthusiastic as they learn the scope of what the organization can accomplish. Our Auxiliary is more than just a motivated environmental outreach group; it is a support group that believes in the vision of the Sea Turtle Patrol HHI. Marking nests and collecting data is very important, but it is also fulfilling to inspire individuals in this community to learn more about endangered sea turtles that nest on our beach every season. 

Sea Turtle Patrol HHI Auxiliary members can be identified wearing a sky blue shirt, similar to the royal blue shirt worn by the Sea Turtle Patrol HHI, the nest-monitoring team that is permitted by state and federal regulations required, and who interact directly with sea turtle nests, eggs, and hatchlings. All beach operations are performed by volunteers.

Medal ceremony after race. 

The successful 2024 Sea Turtle Nesting Season Kickoff event was held May 11 at Lowcountry Celebration Park in conjunction with the Mom’s Day 5K, a fundraiser for Sea Pines Montessori Academy, organized by Hilton Head Running Company. 

The Sea Turtle Patrol theme for the 2024 sea turtle nesting season is Next Generation, so we thought it would be appropriate to incorporate the Loggerhead Loop with the Mom’s Day 5K race – because where there are moms, there are children. 

Sea Pines Montessori’s art club and members of the Auxiliary in Port Royal painted trash can lids, donated by Shore Beach Services, to resemble the pattern on turtle shells. There were approximately 40 children, each outfitted with a unique turtle “shell” as they ran the Loop, the 250 meters of sidewalk surrounding Celebration Park. 

Moms on the track helped get everyone excited about the race.

The Loop was set up as an obstacle course, complete with dunes fashioned from brown paper, abandoned beach chairs, towels, beach toys, holes marked by black discs, and sandcastles made from cardboard boxes. The obstacles highlighted a hatchling’s treacherous journey to the ocean, represented by a blue kiddie pool on the opposite side of the lawn. 

Beginning at a “nest” site, some kids ran the course, while others crawled with their painted trash can lid on their back. It was a fun activity with an important take-home message.

Success! Kids crossing the Loggerhead Loop finishing line with their trash can lid “turtle shells” on their back.

For crossing the finish line, participants received a runner’s medallion shaped like a sea turtle with a lanyard commemorating the occasion. 

To prepare for Mother’s Day, kids were given the opportunity to decorate a gift bag, color a wooden sea turtle ornament, and make a bracelet with sea turtle shaped beads as a gift for mom. Other activities such as face painting and temporary tattoos were enjoyed during the event. All these fun activities were led by Auxiliary members – whose dedication was apparent at 6 a.m. when set up began. 

Loggerhead Loop finishers wear their medals with pride.

This new assembly of Auxiliary members is truly a support system for community outreach under the guidance of experienced members of the Sea Turtle Patrol. Equipped with the knowledge and practices to pass on to visitors and residents, Auxiliary teams will be spreading sea turtle conservation awareness and inspiring others. 

Jack crawling with the “hatchlings” on the obstacle course

The first nest of the season was laid on the north end of Hilton Head on May 9. Sea Turtle Patrol HHI dedicates this nest to the youth who are motivated by education, awareness, and their desire to be excellent caretakers of our beaches, our sea turtles, and the marine environment.

Visit SeaTurtlePatrolHHI.org to learn more about the program.  

Stretching and getting focused for the Loggerhead Loop.

Sandie helps participants make their own bracelets.

Deb and Mary Jo set up their “tattoo” shop during the event.

 

 

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