Mid-July marks the halfway point of the sea turtle nesting season on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore (CHNS), and with 206 nests recorded so far, 2023 is on track to be another highly active year for visiting sea turtles on Hatteras, Ocracoke, and Bodie Islands.
“We just past the halfway point of our sea turtle nesting season…, [and] compared to last year, on this day we were at 216 sea turtle nests,” stated CHNS in a social media update. “Looks like we are right on track for another successful nesting season!”
The sea turtle nests laid within CHNS so far include 191 loggerhead nests, 11 green sea turtle nests, 3 Kemp’s Ridley nests, and one leatherback nest, which was also the first leatherback sea turtle nest laid on Ocracoke Island in 11 years.
Ocracoke Island was also once again the site of the first sea turtle nest of the 2023 season, which was a loggerhead nest that was discovered by CHNS biologists on May 12, 2023.
Time will tell if 2023 will be as busy as 2022, but it’s a tough milestone to surpass, as 2022 was the second-busiest sea turtle nesting season in recorded history for the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
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 record-breaking 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, which blew the previous record of 325, (set in 2016), out of the water.
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, (and with the second half of the nesting season still on the horizon), 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.
Visitors who notice any sea turtle nesting activity are also advised to call the Cape Hatteras National Seashore to report the sighting 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.