October 21, 2014

UPDATE: Hatching nests will keep Cape Point
closed to night driving for 1-2 more weeks


A turtle nest about to hatch has had Cape Point closed to night driving since Oct. 7, and now the National Park Service says a second nest is also approaching hatching and will likely keep the ban on ORVs at night for another week or two.

Park resources manager Randy Swilling said today that the first nest has started hatching slowly -- not with the usual "boil" of baby turtles all at once. The hatching started over the weekend with about 20 hatchlings one night and about seven on the next, but then slowed down when the weather turned cooler.

Nests at the seashore usually hatch at Day 60-62, and the first nest is now at Day 69.

It is not clear, he said, if the hatching is finished.  The nest will be excavated three days after hatching or when park technicians decide that the hatch is finished.

The first nest is north of Ramp 44, but the night driving ban is required so the glare from  headlights of ORVs traveling north from the Point to the ramp does not disorient the hatchlings.

The second nest, Swilling said, is in the same area and the night driving ban will kick in for the same reason.

The second nest is in the Day 50-55 hatch window and has either been expanded or is about to be.

If it hatches at the expected time -- 60 to 62 days -- and then is excavated, it will keep the night driving ban in place for another week at least. If cooler temperatures slow down the second nest also, the area could remain closed to night driving for another two weeks.

The night driving ban is in place from 9 p.m. until 7 a.m. Pedestrians still have access to the Point at night.

Swilling also said today that all of the nests in the Hatteras District -- from Ramp 30 south -- have either hatched or been expanded.

There could be a few north of Ramp 30, he said, mentioning one between Ramps 25 and 27.

On Ocracoke, several nests were removed today, and the beach is open to night driving from Ramp 59 south for about 4 miles. A nest remains between Ramps 70-72, which restricts night driving within a half-mile of the nest.

"It would be nice to continue with this warm weather," Swilling said, so the baby turtles can "keep their batteries charged" and finish hatching.


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