Hatching begins in July and ends at the end of October. For the purposes of the Hatching Patrol, the island is "divided" into eight zones. A group of volunteers is assigned to each zone. Each group is scheduled for one week. During their week, they walk their zone and watch for activity around the turtle nests. Hatched nests are marked and recorded.
72 hours after the first indication that the nest has hatched, the the turtle patrol inventories the nest. Inventorying a nest entails carefully moving the sand to locate the hatched eggs.
After carefully scraping off the top layer of sand, the nest is dug by hand to prevent breaking any unhatched eggs or injuring any hatchlings.
The patrol records the number of hatched eggs, the number of unhatched eggs (if any), and the number of hatchlings. Yes, hatchlings! Often there are a few stragglers still waiting in the nest.
This information is reported to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.
Any stragglers are collected in a small bucket that has been "lined" with damp sand. Once all the remaining hatchlings are located, they are escorted down the beach towards the ocean. They are placed on the sand, NOT in the water. They need to imprint our beach on their little brains so they know where to return when it is their turn to nest!
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Revised: March 14, 2015