Sea turtles have become a symbol of civic pride for many beach towns. But don’t expect to see them, since they generally only crawl ashore at night.
North Carolina’s waters are home to five species of sea turtles – loggerhead, green, leatherback, hawksbill and the very rare Kemp’s ridley.
The vast majority of nesting turtles in the state are loggerheads, with a single female likely to lumber ashore several times a season to dig a hole and lay an average of 120 eggs.
Roughly two months later, the eggs hatch and the baby turtles scamper to the ocean where they’ll stay for 20 years or more before the females return to start the cycle all over again.
But experts believe only about 1 in every 1,000 hatchlings will live long enough to reproduce.
That’s why sea turtles are protected by some pretty stringent federal and state laws, and locals don’t take too kindly to anyone disturbing a nest or sea turtle.
So if you see a nest or turtle on the beach, beachgoers should observe the animals from a safe distance and call local law enforcement.
To see and learn more about sea turtles and their nesting, visit the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher.
The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Topsail Beach is one of the few places between Florida and New England that takes care of injured turtles. The hospital offers tours during the summer.
Date posted: March 30, 2009