Sea Turtle Nesting Season Begins

Posted May 15, 2016

Every year between May 15th and September 15th mother sea turtles crawl up on the beaches of the Outer Banks to lay their eggs.  There are four species of sea turtles who lay their eggs on the beaches of Duck and the Outer Banks but the majority who nest here are loggerhead sea turtles.   Except for rare occasions,  Duck is typically the northernmost point where sea turtles nest.

How it works:
Mother turtles arrive most frequently in the night to dig a nest and deposit their eggs. They cannot see very well on land and are easily spooked.  These are threatened and endangered species. It is illegal to harass them in any way and the state recommends you maintain a distance of at least 20 feet.  If you are one of the very few and fortunate people to observe a 350 pound sea turtle crawling out of the ocean, please turn off your flashlight, do not take any flash photos and remain quiet.  She will probably go up closer to the dune and begin to rock her body to dig a body pit.  She will then raise up on the edge of the bowl she has made and with her back flippers dig a nest cavity 18 to 22 inches deep.  When complete it will look like a light bulb with a 6 inch tube in the sand that channels the eggs into a basketball shaped hole.  She will then begin dropping the eggs into the hole.  Please be sure to stay behind her at the recommended distance and observe quietly.  She will deposit an average of 110 eggs into the nest cavity then begin covering it up. When she is finished she will turn and go back to sea.  Please give her room to proceed.

What to do if you see a turtle or tracks:
If you see a sea turtle on the beach at any time or the three foot wide track that looks like a huge tractor trailer truck drove out of the ocean and its wheels were not parallel, similar to the attached picture, please call the  N.E.S.T.  (Network for Endangered Sea Turtles) hotline at 252.441.8622.

Even if you do not get the rare opportunity to see nesting, you can help every day as you leave the beach by filling in your deep holes in the sand and taking all of your beach paraphernalia and trash with you. If you are staying in an ocean front house please minimize the lighting in your cottage that is visible from the ocean. Most importantly, no flashlights or flash photography when a live turtle is on the beach.

Thank you for your cooperation and assistance in preserving these ancient mariners.

Learn more about N.E.S.T. by clicking here.

2016-5-15
Sea Turtle Nesting Tracks, [Photo: J. Orsulak]