The suspects fled the scene when officers arrived

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Green Sea Turtle
Credit: David Fleetham/VW PICS/Universal Images Group via Getty

Police in South Carolina responded to a report last week of people trying to ride on the back of a large sea turtle who had come ashore to lay her eggs.

According to an Horry County police report obtained by WPDE-TV, officers responded to the scene shortly before 11 p.m on Monday, July 12. There, they found "a large group of people surrounding and sitting on a large sea turtle."

When officers arrived, the suspects fled the scene. Officers have classified the incident as "animal cruelty."

According to a Facebook post by the group South Carolina United Turtle Enthusiasts (S.C.U.T.E.), the turtle was not injured.

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WBTW-TV reports that the turtle went back into the sea after encountering the people. She returned later that night and laid 77 eggs. The nest is under protection.

Green sea turtles are classified as endangered species by the state of South Carolina and the federal government. The Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 and the Marine Turtle Protection Act states that "no person may take, possess, disturb, mutilate, destroy, cause to be destroyed, sell, offer for sale, transfer, molest or harass any marine sea turtle or its nests or eggs at any time."

Beachgoers may take photos of the turtles, but there is a specific set of guidelines to do so: The photographer should stand behind the turtle and quietly take the photos without using a flash. Additionally, beachgoers should alert park rangers about the nesting turtle.

The Horry County police have descriptions of several suspects in the case, but no arrests have been made.