Loggerheads account for 99% of the nesting sea turtles on Hilton Head Island, with the most endangered species, the Leatherback, having only nested here a handful of times in the past 20 years. The Leatherback usually nests in the warmer waters of Florida, the Caribbean, and Central/South America, although for unknown reasons there has been an increase in nesting farther north.
This year there were two Leatherback nests on the island, with one nest chamber located and marked. The first was laid on May 8 and after reaching the max incubation period of 75 days with no sign of emergence (hatchlings!), members of the HHI Sea Turtle Protection Program opened the nest to check viability. Three eggs were “candlewicked” (a light shown through them); two were unfertilized, but one had a viable hatchling. The team member could even feel the babe moving around in the egg!!. The SC Dept. of Natural Resources advised the team to return the eggs to the nest and monitor an additional 10 days.