National Park Service (NPS) biologists with the Cape Hatteras National Seashore conducted the first sea turtle nest excavation of the 2021 summer season on Sunday, August 1, at a recently hatched nest site near ORV Ramp 48 in Frisco.
Every summer, sea turtles visit the beaches of Hatteras and Ocracoke islands to lay their eggs. This year, the National Seashore has had a total of 275 nests reported along the local shorelines so far, with many nests starting to hatch on a regular basis.
One of the ways that NPS staff assist these turtles is by gathering data after each nest hatches. During this excavation, a park biologist will dig up a recently hatched nest, count the empty shells, and collect unhatched eggs for research. On occasion, several live baby turtles are also found in the sandy nests, and they are traditionally collected and released in the evening hours, when hatching typically occurs.
In this most recent excavation, the initial hatching took place on July 28, where a total of 58 hatchlings emerged. An additional 14 hatchlings emerged the following day, July 29, and a total of 10 more hatchlings were reported on July 30 and August 1.
Later on Sunday, August 1, the park biologists excavated the original nest and found 14 additional live hatchlings, (which were then released later in the evening), as well as two deceased hatchlings.
In total, the lone sea turtle nest produced 110 eggs, (with 103 eggshells and seven eggs that were unhatched), for an overall hatch success rate of 84.4%
The Cape Hatteras National Seashore also hosts public nest excavations whenever possible in the late summer months, so that visitors can see the excavation process up close and in person. Announcements on public excavations will be announced in the near future on the CHNS Facebook page, as well as through the sea turtle nest excavation hotline at 252-475-9629.