BOGUE BANKS — It’s sea turtle nesting season along North Carolina’s coast, and several clutches of eggs have already been found on beaches in Carteret County.
N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission coastal wildlife diversity biologist Sarah Finn said Wednesday nesting season officially began May 1. In more than a month, eight loggerhead nests have been reported in the county. Five were reported on Cape Lookout National Seashore, two in Emerald Isle and one in Pine Knoll Shores.
“The first nest (reported) in Carteret County was May 14 on Cape Lookout,” Ms. Finn said. “Coastal water temperatures play a big role in the timing of sea turtle nesting, so there’s annual variation in the date of first nesting activity.”
The WRC has a sea turtle stranding network with volunteers and coordinators who patrol beaches during nesting season. Ms. Finn said once a nest has been verified by a permitted volunteer or coordinator, the area is marked with wooden stakes or a sign to help prevent the nest from being disturbed.
“In some areas where human-subsidized predators are prevalent (e.g. foxes, coyotes, raccoons, etc.), a predator exclusion device is placed over the nest cavity,” she said. “This can be protective plastic mesh or wire caging; both prevent digging into the nest by predators, while allowing hatchlings to emerge naturally.”
Volunteers and coordinators monitor the nests during incubation. After hatchlings emerge, observers wait 72 hours, then excavate the nest to determine hatching success.
Ms. Finn said there’s been less nesting in May 2021 than the same month last year. Statewide, 65 nests were reported last month, in comparison to 110 were reported in May 2020.
“In communicating with colleagues in South Carolina and Georgia, it seems the 20201 (nesting) has been slower to start this year across the region, likely due to cooler coastal water temperatures this year,” Ms. Finn said.
If beachgoers come across a sea turtle on the beach, either crawling ashore or actively nesting, Ms. Finn said the most important thing is to “observe quietly from a distance.”
“Turn off any lights and contact our statewide sea turtle hotline,” she said.
The hotline can be reached at 252-241-7367. Ms. Finn said local volunteer and coordinator groups will be alerted to mark the nest.
“It’s very important to allow the turtle to nest undisturbed,” Ms. Finn said, “so please don’t take any photos using flash or use flashlights, as sea turtles are very sensitive to light and this could cause the turtle to abandon nesting.”
Contact Mike Shutak at 252-723-7353, email firstname.lastname@example.org; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.