The sea turtle nesting season is winding down, but with 378 nests recorded along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore (CHNS), 2023 boasts the third-highest number of turtle nests reported since data collection began.
The top three years for sea turtle nesting activity within CHNS have all occurred within the past five years, and are as follows:
- 2019 – 473 nests
- 2022 – 379 nests
- 2023 – 378 nests
Outer Banks Forever, the official nonprofit partner of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, recently released their annual “Sea Turtle Scoop” report, which stated that more than 25,000 sea turtle hatchlings were recorded this past year from a total of 378 nests.
Of these nests, 86% were Loggerhead sea turtles, along with 50 Green sea turtles, three rare Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles, and one rare Leatherback sea turtle.
In fact, 2023 marked the first time that a Leatherback sea turtle nest was discovered on Ocracoke Island in 11 years. (The nest was identified in June, and successfully hatched in late August with 19 baby sea turtles making their way to the ocean.)
Outer Banks Forever also reported that supporters of the non-profit organization’s “Adopt A Sea Turtle Nest” program helped raise $28,987 to protect and enhance CHNS and the vital sea turtle habitat it preserves.
Sea turtle nests laid by loggerheads, Kemp’s Ridley turtles, 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 the nesting season typically begins slowly in mid-to-late May, before it heats up in the prime summer months. In 2023, the first sea turtle nest was discovered on May 12 on Ocracoke Island.
While the nesting season is nearly over, there is still a modest number of nests that are incubating from the Tri-villages to Frisco, (11 nests as of October 27), and visitors are advised to be aware of these small nest closures throughout Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands.
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.
For the 2023 Field Summary from CHNS, click here.