The 2022 sea turtle nesting season is winding down, but with 378 turtle nests recorded along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore (CHNS) as of mid-October, 2022 boasts the second-highest number of nests reported since data collection began.
Sea turtle nests laid by loggerheads, green 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 National Seashore beaches in 2020, and a total of 315 nests recorded in 2021.
However, with 378 nests reported to date, this has been one of the busiest seasons by far, second only to 2019.
The first sea turtle nest of the season was found on Ocracoke Island on May 20, 2022, and while the nesting season is nearly over, there is still a small number of nests that are incubating, (15 nests as of October 19), and visitors are advised to be aware of this activity throughout Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands.
In addition, while new nesting activity is unlikely, it is still possible. On Halloween morning, 2020, a green sea turtle nest was found in Frisco, which was the latest sea turtle nest recorded at CHNS since at least 1997.
With this in mind, beachgoers should remove beach equipment, such as lounge chairs, umbrellas, tents, and other items from the beach when they leave, especially if they are near an established nest. If left on the beach, these items can prevent nesting attempts, and can also be roadblocks for hatchlings who are trying to make a mad dash to the ocean.
Other tips to help protect sea turtles and hatchlings during the nesting season, per the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, include the following:
- Fill in all holes in the sand at the end of the day.
- Pick up all your trash when you leave.
- If fishing, properly dispose of any fishing line. Improperly discarded fishing line is often deadly to turtles, birds, and other marine animals.
- Use your natural vision and moonlight when walking the beach at night.
Visitors who notice any sea turtle nesting activity are 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.