All You Need to Know About Sea Turtle Nesting in NC
Topsail Island sea turtles are a pretty big deal around here—and for good reason. Not only are they incredibly cute but they are also very complex migratory creatures whose lifecycles are observed with a careful eye. Just like you, sea turtles are beach goers. In fact they are most excellent travelers. They leave the beach as hatchlings, grow up in multiple habitats that can be separated by hundreds or thousands of miles. Then they migrate back to their nesting beaches decades later to lay the next generation of eggs.
Their journey is filled with all kinds of threats from the time they leave the nest. These threats include: bycatch in fisheries, entanglement in fishing gear, vessel strikes, entanglement in marine debris, barriers that restrict access to nesting beaches, artificial lighting that confuses hatchling turtles on beaches, and in some parts of the world their eggs are hunted and collected.
All of these threats caused sea turtle populations to decline during the 20th century, putting them on the endangered and threatened species list. All seven species of sea turtles are listed under the Endangered Species Act. So that's why Topsail Island is dedicated to protecting and preserving the sea turtle population that grace our shorelines each and every year.
We hope that you will join in our efforts!
SEA TURTLE SEASON ON TOPSAIL BEACH
Topsail Island has 26 miles of beautiful beach. Each mile is surveyed every morning during sea turtle season to identify turtle tracks and nests from May through August by local organizations and volunteers. The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center (also referred to as the Topsail Sea Turtle Hospital) is the driving force behind most of our NC sea turtle monitoring and protecting here on Topsail Island. They have a dedicated staff of volunteers combined with community efforts that put sea turtles at the top of the priority list. We're thankful for that and for them.
TOPSAIL ISLAND SEA TURTLE RELEASES
Some of our local Topsail turtles have spent time at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center getting a second chance at life.
“We can’t predict the future. Once they’re back out in the ocean, they may not make it past the first wave, but we did out part; we gave these turtles a second chance," said Jean Beasley, the center’s director.
The turtles were being treated for sickness or injury and have been given a clean bill of health and are now ready to take on the call of the wild. You can read more about the latest sea turtle release on the beach in Surf City, NC here. You can also watch the drone video below of the big event which gives you a bird's eye view.
2019 SEA TURTLE SEASON OFF TO A GREAT START
Although the most common species in North Carolina is the loggerhead sea turtle, five sea turtle species regularly visit North Carolina waters: the loggerhead, Kemp’s ridley, leatherback, green and hawksbill. Only loggerhead, green and leatherback sea turtles lay their eggs on North Carolina beaches.
In 2019, an unusually high amount of turtle nests on Topsail Island has been recorded for the beginning of the nesting season. That's really good news!
The Town of Surf City staff recently met with Jean Beasley and the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital staff in May. Here's what Surf City Town Hall wrote in a Facebook post: "Yesterday we had the pleasure of meeting with Mrs. Jean Beasley and the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital staff. Currently there are 21 turtle nests on Topsail Island. This is "unheard of" before June 1st. Turtles are nesting in the hauled in sand, which is important to the ecology of future turtle nesting."
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP SEA TURTLES DURING YOUR NC VACATION
While you're on your Topsail beach vacation, here are a few things you can do to help our sea turtle season to be the best it can be. And don't forget, if you see an unmarked sea turtle nest, call the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center (910) 329-0222 or the local police. Thank you in advance for helping our local sea turtles. We want to keep these beautiful creatures coming back to our island for years to come.
Keep a safe distance
Keep away from turtles on the beach, especially moving turtles that may be looking for a nesting site. To observe, sit quietly away from the turtle. Leave turtle hatchlings on the beach and respect all nest markers.
No artificial light
Do not use artificial light sources. Turn off flashlights, cell phone screens, and all other ocean side lighting during hatching or nesting events. This includes lights from your oceanfront Topsail rental.
Throw trash away
Pick up litter on the sand and in the water. Remove beach litter such as balloons and plastic bags as they may be mistaken for food in the ocean and ingested by sea turtles. Be responsible for any and all beach trash.
Level the sand
Fill in all holes on the beach at the end of the day as they may become traps for female turtles that generally nest on the beach at night. They can also be dangerous for people!
Remove all beach items
Be sure to pick up all your beach equipment and furniture at the end of the day. Don't leave any additional obstacles on the sand for nesting turtles or hatchlings.
Keep pets on a leash
Keep pets away from sea turtles and nests. Dogs are naturally curious and may cause unintended harm to nesting females, sea turtle eggs, nests, and hatchlings.