November 20, 2014

UPDATE:  Cape Point could open
to night driving next week


A sea turtle nest that just doesn't want to hatch, especially with this month's chilly temperatures, will keep Cape Point closed to night driving for several more days. 

But the good news is that the night-driving ban that has been in place since early October could end by Thanksgiving.

The nest causing all the trouble for night fishermen -- or stargazers -- in off-road vehicles is located at Ramp 44.  The ban is in place so that the headlights of vehicles heading to and from Ramp 44 will not disturb or disorient the hatchlings.

In the warmer weather, nests usually hatch at the seashore at 60 to 62 days of incubation.  However, this stubborn nest is now at Day 85. 

Randy Swilling, acting chief of resource management, says periodic testing of the eggs has shown that the eggs are still viable.

But he said today that there is no sign of hatching and he doesn't expect it at this point.

"Based on our best professional judgment," he said, "we have a good feeling that the nest won't hatch so late in the season and with as cold as it has been."

Swilling said that state Wildlife Resources Commission guidelines that the seashore follows require that the nest be at least at Day 90 of incubation before action is taken..
At Day 90, the nest will be checked again for viability. If the eggs are dead, the nest will be removed and all restrictions lifted.

"If it is still viable, regardless of whether we believe it will hatch or not, we will leave the expansion up, but I will recommend that the night restriction be re-evaluated," he said.  "At Day 100, the expansion can be reduced to the original 10- by 10-meter fence."

Day 90 for the nest -- and perhaps D-Day for night driving -- is Tuesday, Nov. 25.

Swilling also added that when the seashore's bio-technicians check for viability, they make their decision based on egg color.  However, at -- and after -- 90 days, they can open the eggs.

If the first one contains a dead embryo, they keep checking until they find a live one -- or not.

There are devices that can check the heart rates on the embryos, Swilling said, but they are made for birds and don't work as well on turtles.  Since turtles are cold-blooded animals, their heart rate can be slower and harder to detect, especially in cold temperatures.

If the eggs should happen to hatch this late in the year -- or if hatchlings are found when the nest is checked -- they are transported to the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island.  The ocean, he said, is too cold for them by this time of year.

The hatchlings would either stay at the aquarium until spring or summer or they might get a ride to the Gulf Stream on the boat of an aquarium volunteer.

The night-driving ban is in place from 9 p.m. until 7 a.m. The area is open at night to pedestrians.


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