Monday, July 25, 2011

Sea Turtles: DeBordieu's Neighbors: News from South Carolina Department of Natural Resources

DNR NewsJuly 18, 2011
Baby sea turtle leaving DeBordieu Beach

North Island one of the densest sea turtle nesting beaches in SC
This year marks the first time the entire length of North Island in Georgetown County has been surveyed for sea turtle nests during the nesting season. The number of nests documented through the end of June (which represents approximately 54% of the nesting season) is 95. If nesting effort remains strong, North Island could have as many as 200 nests, possibly more. This means North Island would be tied with Kiawah Island as the second densest sea turtle nesting beach in South Carolina (based on nests per kilometer).

North Island is part of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center Heritage Preserve. It hosts the largest sand dunes in South Carolina and provides quality nesting habitat for sea turtles and shore birds. North Island is designated as a barrier island wilderness area, where no activities that would be detrimental to its primitive state are allowed. Follow nesting on North Island in real-time.

Considered one of the most outstanding gifts to wildlife conservation in North America, the Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center was willed to DNR in 1976 by the late Tom Yawkey. After its transfer to DNR, the Center was dedicated as a Heritage Preserve by the South Carolina Heritage Trust, a program that works to preserve natural diversity in South Carolina. The Yawkey Wildlife Center, which includes North Island, South Island, Sand Island and most of Cat Island, is composed of 31 square miles of marsh, managed wetlands, forest openings, ocean beach, longleaf pine forest and maritime forest. Dedicated as a wildlife preserve, research area, and waterfowl refuge, the Yawkey Wildlife Center has become a haven for waterfowl, nongame and endangered species alike. The diversity of habitats support over 200 species of birds, rivaling the variety and rarity documented at the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge. Visitation by the public to the Yawkey Center is limited due to the protected nature of the Heritage Preserve.

Because the Yawkey Wildlife Center's 16 miles of beach are undisturbed, they provide protected feeding, nesting and resting areas for numerous seabirds, shorebirds and wading bird species, as well as excellent nesting locations for the federally threatened loggerhead sea turtle and the diamondback terrapin. Shorebird species such as the Wilson’s plover, the American oystercatcher and the federally threatened piping plover utilize North Island’s healthy dune ecosystem. Year-round federally endangered birds found at the Yawkey Wildlife Center include the wood stork and the red-cockaded woodpecker. Other bird species of interest include the peregrine falcon, bald eagle, black rail, black skimmer, barn owl, loggerhead shrike, northern bobwhite, American bittern, painted bunting, gull-billed tern, brown pelican, and the least tern. The Yawkey Center is also home to a large population of American alligators and white-tailed deer and is directly south of Hobcaw Barony and DeBordieu Beach. Portions of the Yawkey Wildlife Center are in the boundaries of the North Inlet – Winyah Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR), one of 28 protected sites around the nation committed to stewardship of estuaries through research and education. The North Inlet-Winyah Bay NERR is operated by the University of South Carolina and has headquarters at the Baruch Marine Field Laboratory on Hobcaw Barony. The Reserve also partners with the Belle W. Baruch Foundation in operating the Hobcaw Barony Discovery Center, located at the entrance to the Hobcaw property. Center exhibits and programs feature the area’s rich natural resources, history and research conducted at Hobcaw. It is also part of the Carolinian-South Atlantic Biosphere Reserve.

The DNR Marine Turtle Conservation Program is responsible for managing and protecting sea turtles in the state of South Carolina. This program has several all-encompassing components: management, monitoring, research, and education. This program implements management techniques to mitigate activities that may impact sea turtles and provides training and support to approximately 30 projects and over 1100 volunteers across the coast who protect nests and document sea turtles that wash ashore (strandings). DNR staff members also perform necropsies on fresh dead strandings and respond to live strandings in need of care. As of June 30, there have been 2,545 nests documented in the state. If you encounter a stranded sea turtle, please call 1-800-922-5431.


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