Meet Jeff McClary, Lindsey Rankin, Luke Rankin, Jr. & Hollings Rankin

By Leslie Moore

Meet Jeff McClary, Lindsey Rankin, Luke Rankin, Jr. & Hollings Rankin

The ocean is a powerful draw for those of us who live near its majestic beauty, and a deep respect for the creatures that make it their home is a trait shared by many who love the sea. One of these, the loggerhead sea turtle, Caretta caretta, is South Carolina’s official state reptile and a threatened species. Without intervention, these magnificent turtles, who weigh between 200-300 pounds as adults, may be threatened with extinction. Enter S.C.U.T.E. (South Carolina United Turtle Enthusiasts), an all-volunteer group dedicated to sea turtle conservation in Georgetown and Horry counties. This dedicated group covers 55 miles of beaches, which are patrolled each day at dawn, from May through October. Nests are protected, relocated if necessary and inventories of the nests are done after the hatchlings make their way to the sea. One of its founders, Jeff McClary and more recent volunteers, Lindsey Rankin and her step-children Luke, Jr. and Hollings, met with Sasee to discuss their passion for protecting the turtles. Jeff once walked the beaches, but now he answers the phone starting at dawn, going where he is needed and training new volunteers. If you see him, stop and ask a few questions and get a Santee Cooper S.C.U.T.E. sea turtle bumper sticker and brochure – he is one of our area’s most knowledgeable and passionate sea turtle advocates.

Jeff, when did S.C.U.T.E. begin?

I moved here from Louisville, Kentucky, in 1982 and met Chris Marlow. He and I started documenting the turtles that washed up on the beaches in 1983. At that time, fishing boats weren’t required to have turtle excluder devices (TEDs) on their nets and many died as a result. Some summer months, The Stranding Network would see as many as 600 turtles washed up on our state’s shore. We also knew the turtles were affected by artificial lights and began to work toward a county light ordinance that would restrict bright lights on the beachfront during nesting season. We were able to get that passed in 1989, the first in the state for sea turtle protection. S.C.U.T.E. was first permitted by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources in 1990.

We have such a wide variety of people who volunteer for S.C.U.T.E., but they all share one passion – helping the loggerhead turtles recover. The “U” for “United” is the most important letter in S.C.U.T.E.! Volunteers cover the beaches of our area by walking every morning, and they’ll report any turtle activity to their coordinator. Only volunteers permitted by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources are allowed to move or probe a nest.

We also conduct educational presentations in local schools – the children are always interested in what we do, and I love seeing the light bulb go off! Community awareness is also an important part of our work. For years, we kept detailed logs of all turtle activity, but now, all of our data is uploaded to seaturtle.org.

Lindsey how did you and your family get involved with S.C.U.T.E.?

I have always loved animals and grew up with a respect for all life. Two years ago, I married Luke and moved to the beach; soon after I became involved. We have to protect what is here. Thank goodness for S.C.U.T.E.

We have a vacation home in DeBordieu and try to help whenever we’re there. I also love seeing the inventories – that’s when they open the nest after the initial hatching, and sometimes there is a turtle or two left in the nest that we get to see make their way to the ocean.

Luke, Jr. (15): The turtles have been a part of my life since I can remember. It’s something I have always loved. Of my friends, I do think I am the biggest supporter! We are stewards of the environment.

Hollings (12): I met two of my best friends on the beach while we were at an inventory. It’s a big part of our lives.

Jeff, what should our readers do if they see turtle activity on the beach?

Please call me at 843-340-2934, or call the local police. They all cooperate with S.C.U.T.E. Most people are very aware of what we do and are enthusiastic. Thanks to Santee Cooper, we have brochures and bumper stickers available all through the summer season that explain the need for lights out on the beachfront, as well as keeping all holes on the beach filled in.

What if someone wants to volunteer?

Please give me a call! Or better yet, email me at scute1@aol.com. Let me know where on the Grand Strand that you live and which beach you go to. I will then forward the email to that sections coordinator. I have to warn you though, working with the sea turtles is so addicting that very few volunteers give up their walking spot. A lot of our volunteers have 20+ years of experience.

Shop to Help Tip: Locally, Pink Cabana in Myrtle Beach sells Loggerhead Apparel, who donate a portion of their proceeds to the preservation of our turtles.

About this writer

  • Leslie Moore Leslie Moore is the editor for Strand Media Group. A 25 year resident of Pawleys Island, she is blessed with a life filled with the love of family and friends and satisfying work to do every day.

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