Each spring and summer, female sea turtles — loggerheads, greens, and occasional leatherbacks — make a brief trip to the shores of Cape Hatteras National Seashore to nest. Approximately two months later, under the cover of darkness, up to 150 hatchlings emerge from each sandy nest and rush across the beach to reach the safety of the Atlantic Ocean.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore is offering park visitors an opportunity to observe excavations of recently hatched sea turtle nests during the months of July, August, and September. An “excavation” is the process completed by biologists to document what remains in the nest after a natural hatch has occurred.
During an excavation, the biologists will dig up the nest, count eggshells, and collect un-hatched eggs for research. Live hatchlings are sometimes found during these excavations. While the biologists perform their examination of the nest, a park ranger will present a program on sea turtles and share what the biologists have found.
Nest excavations are an important way for the National Park Service to collect valuable data on sea turtle hatch and emergence success rates. This data is added to the turtle nesting databases for the seashore and the state of North Carolina.
Persons interested in finding out when and where an excavation will take place can call the excavation program hotline at 252-475-9629. The first excavation of the season will take place in late July. Due to the unpredictability of sea turtle hatchings, notice of these excavations programs will usually occur only one day in advance, so check the hotline often.