Sea turtle hatching season has begun on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore (CHNS) with several nests that have hatched in the past few days, and many more approaching the hatching window, per an update from CHNS.
When a nest is within its hatching window, (typically after 50-60 days of incubation), park biologists install black filter fencing to help reduce light pollution and guide them to the ocean.
Per Seaturtle.org, which monitors nesting activity all around the world, there has been a total of 338 nests laid so far within CHNS, which puts 2023 in line with other record-breaking years in the recent past.
Sea turtle nests laid by loggerheads, green turtles, Kemp’s Ridley turtles, and leatherbacks have been monitored at CHNS since the 1970s. The Outer Banks serves as seasonal breeding grounds for endangered sea turtles, and CHNS has had several strong years in the past decade when it comes to the annual number of recorded sea turtle nests.
In 2019, a new record of 473 sea turtle nests was set, and 2020 and 2021 were solid years for sea turtles as well, with a total of 228 nests recorded along the CHNS beaches in 2020, and a total of 315 nests recorded in 2021.
However, with a total of 379 nests reported, 2022 was one of the busiest seasons in recorded history, second only to 2019.
With this in mind, beachgoers are asked to take a few steps to protect these unique summertime visitors.
Please fill in any holes in the sand, and remove beach equipment, (such as umbrellas and tents), from the beach when you leave, especially if they are near an established nest. If left on the beach, holes and left-behind beach gear can prevent nesting attempts, and can also be roadblocks for hatchlings who are trying to make a mad dash to the ocean.
In addition, hatchlings are very sensitive to light as they emerge from their nests, and can become disoriented towards any light that mimics the moon or stars over the ocean. As such, visitors staying in oceanfront accommodations that are close to established sea turtle nests are encouraged to turn off their outdoor lights and close their blinds or drapes after dark, so that the sea turtles don’t mistake a stray porch light for the ocean waters.
Visitors who notice any sea turtle nesting activity can also call the Cape Hatteras National Seashore to report the sighting at 252-216-6892.