Posted on Friday, June 14, 2013

Every Turtle Counts on the North Carolina Coast

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Hundreds of sea turtles come ashore in North Carolina each summer on a journey mapped before they were born. These loggerheads, leatherbacks, ridleys and green sea turtles lay eggs by the hundred, then return to the sea. Thousands of hatchlings emerge and follow their instincts across the ocean miles — and possibly back to the same beach to lay eggs of their own.

The odds are against them. Animal and human raiders target the eggs in the sand-covered nests. On the trek to water’s edge, hatchlings are vulnerable to predators and the disorienting effects of manmade light. Sharks and whales are threats in the ocean. Even larger perils lie close to shore, where boat propellers, hooks and nets can be lethal, discarded balloons and plastic bags can cause fatal blockages, and polluted water can poison them. Estimates on the odds of survival to maturity range from 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 10,000.

In addition to the good work being done by the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Topsail Beach and the dedication of our aquariums, Bald Head Island plays a big part in turtle preservation efforts in the state.

Residents here have watched over sea turtles since 1980. Today, through the Barrier Island Study Center, visitors have a range of opportunities to learn about turtle activity on one of the highest density nesting beaches within the loggerhead’s northern range. Among the possibilities are Sea Turtle Patrol Ride-Alongs, nighttime Turtle Walks and screenings of “Turtle: The Incredible Journey!”