National Park Service officials are seeking information on what led to injuries to a nesting sea turtle over the weekend that were so severe the animal had to be euthanized.
This morning, Cape Hatteras National Seashore personnel found a severely injured sea turtle on the beach approximately 0.66 miles north of Ramp 32 between Salvo and Avon. The sea turtle, identified as a threatened species green sea turtle (chelonia mydas) is believed to have come onto the beach some time in the evening, or night, of Saturday, Aug. 20, in order to lay a nest in the sand.
Turtle tracks led from the ocean to the nesting site approximately 20 feet above the high tide line in an off-road vehicle travel area. The turtle had begun to lay eggs into a nest dug into the sand when it is believed, based on significant evidence found at the scene, that a motor vehicle struck and ran over the nesting turtle.
The incident was not reported by the involved party.
The injuries to the sea turtle were so severe that the turtle had to be euthanized by National Park Service staff.
Nine sea turtle eggs were found immediately adjacent to the injured turtle. Biological technicians working at the scene were able to salvage an additional 172 eggs, which were deposited in a nest site nearby, in hope that these eggs will eventually hatch in a natural state.
National Park Service rangers are working with federal, state, and local authorities to understand the circumstances surrounding this incident. Anyone with information that may help determine the circumstances and events that led to the severe injuries to this sea turtle are asked to contact the Dare County Community Crime Line. For more information, please contact: http://darecommunitycrimeline.org or call 252-473-3111 or 800-745-2746.
“This is a tragic and unfortunate incident,” said seashore Superintendent David Hallac. “We ask that all people utilize caution and look carefully for nesting wildlife when enjoying the seashore’s beaches.”
Visitors to Cape Hatteras National Seashore are reminded that sea turtles, while predominately nesting during nighttime hours, may be present on seashore beaches at any hour of the day. The maximum speed limit in off-road vehicle areas is 15 miles per hour. Nighttime driving restrictions are in place during summer months to protect nesting sea turtles. All off-road vehicles must be off seashore beaches no later than 9 p.m.
A record 318 sea turtles had nested on seashore beaches as of last week’s resource report.