Turtle Nesting on Emerald Isle
As a young girl, I participated in the Emerald Isle Sea Turtle Program and walked a portion of our beach in Atlantic Beach, NC. I would walk the beach for a few miles looking for tracks. I was never lucky enough to find any, but another girl my age had found a track and a nest with her mom. I attended the hatching two months later. The small group I was with decided to give the baby turtles a head start by digging out the hole, and soon the baby Loggerhead Sea Turtles began to hatch! There were around 65-70 regular hatchlings, and about 5 were albino sea turtles. It was a life-changing moment to see. Good luck, baby turtles! Since then, I have made sure people are well educated on turtles and their habits, and you can too!
Hundreds of turtles return home to nest each year along North Carolina’s Crystal Coast. In the summer months of May to October, dozens of nests are found along the beautiful beaches of Atlantic Beach, Pine Knoll Shores, Emerald Isle, Cape Lookout, and Indian Beach. Our locals and our beach towns take pride in our wildlife and, most importantly, our sea turtles! Recently, we have taken more action to protect our native turtles and their nests.
About Our Turtles Nesting on Emerald Isle
We are home to a few common species of sea turtles, including loggerheads, green, and leather-backs, all of which are endangered. Each turtle will lay around 100 eggs each season! After a 60-day incubation, the hatchlings will fiercely dig their way out of the sand and maneuver past obstacles while heading for the ocean. Sadly, with development on the beaches, our sea turtles face difficulties.
What Can You Do to Help Sea Turtles on the Crystal Coast?
There are a few things that you can do to help our turtles:
- Filling in holes in the sand – This way, turtles won’t get stuck coming in and out of the water.
- Clean up litter! – Turtles will often mistake trash bags for food or get stuck.
- Keep beach gear off the beach at night! – Nighttime is usually the best time for turtles to lay their nests and for hatchlings to head home!
- Stay back from nests – Stay at least 30 feet away from nests! This will help keep them undamaged and unharmed!
- Report any tracks or nests! – Reporting any signs of sea turtles will tremendously help the turtles and keep them safe.
- Turn off outside lights – Turning off outside lights at night will help turtles see better. Often, turtles and hatchlings will mistake house lights or road lights for the moon and not make it back to the water.
Locals and beach towns have created programs to protect sea turtles. With these programs, volunteers will walk all 21 miles of our white sandy beaches searching for turtle tracks and nests! If a nest is found, experts will create a barrier to mark for a watch. When the eggs are ready to hatch, volunteers will come out and make sure the turtles make it to the water safely. If the eggs do not hatch, experts will dig them up and assess the nest.
Protect the Turtles
Sea turtles are a precious piece of our beach! As people who love the ocean, we should do everything we can to help protect these beautiful creatures. Remember to clean up after yourself and be respectful and mindful of the beaches and the animals that have made it their home!
Visit our local Sea Turtle Patrol Program to follow our local sea turtle progress and find local events.
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