Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Sea Turtle Nesting Season

It's that time of year again! From May through October, during the height of tourist season, an average of 775 nests are dug by female sea turtles on the shores of North Carolina. All sea turtles that nest in the US are either listed as threatened or endangered and penalties exist for killing, harassing or harming these turtles and their nests.

A female sea turtle lays an average of 100 eggs in each nest. If left undisturbed, eggs will hatch usually within 60 days. Did you know the temperature of the sand can dictate the sex of the hatchlings? Warmer sand creates more females and cooler sand creates more males. A good way to remember it is: "Hot chicks, cool dudes". After hatching, the tiny turtles make their way to the sea before they become prey for hungry predators. Beach visitors can also be a threat by disturbing nesting sea turtles and the nests.

To see a sea turtle up close and learn more about them, visit the "Let's Talk Turtle" exhibit at the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher. To help keep sea turtles safe, The US Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission have released the following guidelines:
  • Minimize beachfront lighting. Close blinds and draperies in oceanfront rooms and turnoff outdoor lighting.
  • Remove all recreational equipment from the beach when not in use including chairs, umbrellas, towels, beach toys, etc.
  • Do not construct beach fires during the nesting season. The hatchlings could become disoriented and crawl toward the fire.
  • Refrain from using flashlights on the beach at night.
  • Do not take flash photography of a nesting sea turtle or hatchling.
  • Remove all of your trash from the beach - including cigarette butts.
  • Do not trample beach vegetation.
  • If you dig a hole in the sand, fill it in before you leave the beach for the day.
  • When boating, stay in the channels and avoid seagrass beds. Do not anchor your boat in a seagrass bed.
  • Leave the tracks left by turtles undisturbed.
  • Do not disturb nest markers. Most NC beaches have volunteer programs that protect and monitor sea turtle nests.
  • Report unmarked nests, hurt or dead sea turtles to the local police or sea turtle volunteer organization.

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