Unbelievable Escape: Loggerhead Sea Turtle Miraculously Freed from Thick Mud by Determined Rescuers in a Dramatic Operation

Courtesy: Alicia Robino, Kristen Carpenter: Friends of Coastal South Carolina

Sunday, during a daily check for sea turtles on Lighthouse Island, a team found a full-grown female Loggerhead stranded in the mud.

Lighthouse Island is part of Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge in Charleston County.

The team, led by Ravin Grove, an assistant crew leader for the Cape Romain “Turtle Team,” included Kristen Mae Carpenter, environmental education coordinator, and Alicia Robino, the environmental education intern, with Friends of Coastal South Carolina.

“Sea turtles only come on land when they’re first born and when the females come up to lay eggs,” Robino said. “They get exhausted easily on land. Once they hit the water, they’re actually pretty graceful.”

The team believes the turtle was in the marsh because she likely got disoriented by the clouds from the storm Saturday night. They say the clouds reflected light so she couldn’t distinguish which way was brighter. Light at night normally reflects off the ocean.

“She crawled on the beach for a long time. Her tracks were all over, in circles and loops. She may have only been in the marsh for a little while by the time we got there,” Robino said. “If she had been left there she probably would have died of exposure there.”

Courtesy: Alicia Robino, Kristen Carpenter: Friends of Coastal South Carolina

Grove, Carpenter and Robino used towels and water to keep her from drying out as they moved her toward the ocean until she could continue on her own.

The turtle didn’t make a nest or lay eggs during her visit to the beach.

“Although strandings can happen naturally, as seen with this one, they happen more often in developed areas because of artificial light confusing the turtles,” Carpenter said. “So, it’s important to keep your lights out May-October if you live on the coastline.”

The Turtle Team patrols the beaches of Cape Romain every day from May through October, rain or shine, looking for nests by following turtle crawls.

Courtesy: Alicia Robino, Kristen Carpenter: Friends of Coastal South Carolina

Last year there were 3,596 nests on the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge. As of Sunday, they’d found 858 this season. Nesting season is May through August.

Loggerhead sea turtles are South Carolina’s state reptile. They are endangered.

If you find a stranded sea turtle, do not attempt to touch or help it. Instead, you should call the South Carolina Dept. of Natural Resources stranding hotline at 1-800-922-5431 or a local sea turtle patrol.

You can support Cape Romain by donating to Friends of Coastal South Carolina, and Coastal Expeditions on their respective websites.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife facilitates the work and is responsible for the maintenance of the refuge.


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