The first sea turtle nest of the 2022 season was found on Ocracoke Island on Friday morning, May 20, per an update from the Cape Hatteras National Seashore (CHNS). The crawl pattern indicated to CHNS biologists that the nest came from a Loggerhead sea turtle, and the nest has been marked off to protect it until the sea turtle eggs hatch in approximately two months.
Last year, the first sea turtle nest of the season was also found on Ocracoke Island on May 14, 2021. This timeframe is similar to 2020, when the first sea turtle nest was discovered in Buxton. Both 2020 and 2021 nests also stemmed from loggerhead sea turtles.
The Outer Banks serves as seasonal breeding grounds for endangered sea turtles, and the Cape Hatteras National Seashore has had several record-breaking years in the past decade when it comes to the annual number of recorded sea turtle nests.
Sea turtle nests laid by loggerheads, green turtles, and leatherbacks have been monitored at CHNS since the 1970s. In 2015, a nesting record of 289 nests was set, followed by a new record in 2016 when 325 sea turtle nests were recorded along the CHNS beaches.
In 2019, there were a total of 473 sea turtle nests recorded within the National Seashore, which blew the previous record of 325 out of the water.
While 2019 was a record-breaking year for sea turtle nesting activity within the Cape Hatteras National Seashore (CHNS), 2020 and 2021 were solid years for sea turtles as well, with a total of 228 nests recorded along the National Seashore beaches in 2020, and a total of 315 nests recorded in 2021.
The high number of sea turtle nests in recent years appears to be a multiple-year trend all along the Eastern Seaboard, according to data from seaturtle.org, which actively monitors sea turtle nests all around the globe.
Due to the recent highly active nesting seasons, visitors are advised to be aware of sea turtle nesting activity or hatchlings while visiting the local beaches on Hatteras and Ocracoke islands. If you see turtle tracks, nesting activity, or hatchlings, please notify park biologists by calling the stranding hotline at 252-216-6892.
In the meantime, visitors can keep tabs on nesting activity at shorelines all around the world at http://www.seaturtle.org.