For many, it’s not a trip to North Myrtle without seeing sea turtles! The Grand Strand has been a popular nesting ground for sea turtles for well over a century. Now, certain species are endangered and protected—but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on seeing these majestic sea creatures during your stay.
Enjoy this quick guide to North Myrtle Beach sea turtles and learn how you can find a few turtles during your stay!
About Sea Turtles
The most common of the North Myrtle Beach sea turtles is the Loggerhead, which is the most abundant marine turtle species. Loggerheads are named for their large heads and powerful jaw muscles that are used to eat hard-shelled prey. These turtles have an average life span of 50 years, can grow to be more than 300 feet long, and weigh more than 220 pounds!
Unfortunately, this species is on the endangered species list due to the loss of nesting areas, food sources, and pollution levels rising in the ocean—though the numbers are finally starting to bounce back!
The loggerhead sea turtles are not as likely to be hunted for their meat or shells as other sea turtles. Instead, their declining numbers are due to being accidentally caught in fishing nets since their habitat coincides with the location of many fisheries.
Because of their current endangered status, certain regulations are in place in North Myrtle Beach and across the Grand Strand to protect the turtles.
North Myrtle Beach Advocacy Groups
Founded in 2010, the North Myrtle Beach Sea Turtle Patrol is a volunteer group that monitors and reports sea turtle activity along the beach. The group is registered with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) and authorized to perform certain activities and events, including nest identification and marking, nest inventory, hatchling recovery, nest relocation, egg collection for genetic testing, and more.
The group is active between May 1st through mid-August, which is when sea turtle nesting season is most active, where they walk the beach each day to find and monitor nests.
Typically, turtle hatchlings will emerge 45-65 days after the female loggerhead lays her eggs. Four days after the hatchlings have emerged, the patrol is allowed to evaluate the nests. They are looking to see how many turtles hatched and how many eggs are left unhatched in a nest. The patrol is authorized by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources to conduct their research and conservation activities in regards to the North Myrtle Beach sea turtles. The public is invited to come out and observe the process.
Check the North Myrtle Beach Sea Turtle Patrol Facebook page for more information on sea turtle sightings and events.
Recent Sea Turtle Hatches
As mentioned above, the sea turtle population across the globe are slowly but surely making a comeback, thanks to 20+ years of conservation efforts.
The numbers for the 2019 season are promising. There were ~65 nests on record for the 2018 season and there have already been over 60 nests spotted for far this year with more to come. These numbers reflect nests across the Grand Strand between North Myrtle Beach all the way down to Pawleys Island.
As exciting as it may be, you need to remember that it is unlawful to disturb the sea turtle nests and the hatchlings as they emerge from the nest. Hatchlings are very vulnerable while emerging from their nests and can become disoriented very quickly. Even taking a picture with a flash can cause them to veer off-course. It is good to remember that they are wild animals and as such are not used to interactions with people.
Sea Turtle Viewing & Safety Tips
If you’re lucky enough to catch one, here are a few tips to safely (and legally!) observe the sea turtle nesting or hatching.
- Do not sit or stand on the dunes since this is where the sea turtle hatchlings will be emerging from their nests.
- Give the sea turtle hatchlings plenty of space and do not approach them.
- Do not handle the sea turtle hatchlings or pick them up.
- Do not help to guide the sea turtle hatchlings to the ocean.
- Do not shine any lights on or around the sea turtle hatchlings, this can cause them to become disoriented and lose their way.
- Do not turn your cell phone on since it can make noise during the start up process and startle the sea turtle hatchlings.
- Do not take any pictures of the sea turtle hatchlings since flash photography can harm them.
Disturbing the sea turtle hatchlings is against the law and can result in causing them harm. Remember that you are here simply as an observer. It is important that the sea turtle hatchlings make the trek to the ocean on their own. They are learning survival skills that will be necessary for them while living in the ocean.
It is an extraordinary sight to watch sea turtles emerge from their nests and start their journey in life. North Myrtle Beach is a wonderful place to observe this event. Just remember that there are some simple rules to follow so that this great species can continue to exist and thrive in the wild.
North Myrtle Beach Sea Turtle FAQs
Want to learn more about sea turtles in North Myrtle Beach? Check out our FAQs!
What kind of sea turtles come to North Myrtle Beach?
Loggerhead sea turtles are the most prevalent sea turtle species along the Grand Strand. Other species, like the leatherback sea turtle, Kemp’s Ridleys, and green sea turtles can be spotted on occasion but are generally more rare. You can see a video about South Carolina sea turtles here.
What time of year can we view sea turtles?
Female turtles nest during the summer. Your best chance of seeing a wild Loggerhead sea turtle is from May through August.
Can we watch eggs being laid or hatched?
Yes—but you must follow local laws and respect local conservation groups during the process.
Where can I find information on sea turtle events?
Sea turtle nesting is a natural event and can’t really be planned in advance. You might stumble upon a nesting turtle during an evening walk along the beach, which is a very special occasion! If you do find a sea turtle nesting, follow viewing best practices listed above.
Planned events, like turtle nest inventories, are coordinated by the North Myrtle Beach Sea Turtle Patrol. You can check their Facebook page for information on upcoming events.
Are sea turtles released in North Myrtle Beach?
There is not currently a sea turtle rehabilitation and release center in the Horry County or the immediate Myrtle Beach area. The closest rehabilitation center is located in Charleston, SC and coordinated through the South Carolina Aquarium.
Unofficial releases through the DNR happen occasionally but are not planned in advance and are coordinated through local authorities.
For more information on sea turtles in North Myrtle Beach, visit the SCUTE (South Carolina United Turtle Enthusiasts) page on seaturtle.org for updated sightings and reports across the region.