A gaping hole and scattered footprints in the sand replaced the familiar wooden stakes and orange tape that guarded a loggerhead sea turtle nest on Folly Beach last month, Folly Turtle Watch Program co-leader Shannon Teders said.

The nest’s 105 eggs, only 3 or 4 days into development, were all gone. Program volunteers saw no recognizable signs of animal tampering.

“It looked like someone took a shovel to the sand,” Teders said.

The group notified Folly Beach Public Safety and the state Department of Natural Resources of a possible poaching on June 4. Suspicions heightened June 8 when a second, freshly laid nest of eggs was discovered missing, marked with a similar gaping hole.

Teders said the program didn’t get a chance to survey the second nest before it was tampered with, so it is unknown how many eggs were taken. However, the average nest contains 110 to 120 eggs.

Despite the threat of poaching, 56 nests are still viable along the Folly Beach shore, on par for the area’s usual 50 to 60, Teders said.

Teders has volunteered with the Folly Turtle Watch Program since 2004 and is a biologist at the South Carolina Aquarium.

She’s heard of local poaching in the past. People sometimes eat the eggs or sell them on the black market. But she said she’s never seen two nests taken at the same time.

“I never thought it would happen on Folly,” Teders said.

We will continue to update this story as details are available.