Loggerhead Sea Turtles
We are at the height of sea turtle hatching season on Wassaw Island and thousands of babies are storming into the ocean. Is there anything cuter than this loggerhead sea turtle hatchling? Not much I’ll say that. Loggerhead sea turtles are federally protected due to the HISTORIC numbers of adults being extremely low. There are THOUSANDS of people all over the world, working long hours, doing everything in their power to protect these giant reptiles. Caretta Research Project is just one of the groups of biologists and volunteers who have a passion for these gentle giants. Caretta works with the Fish and Wildlife Service to patrol the beaches of Wassaw Island National Wildlife Refuge. It is through Caretta that I have learned so much about this threatened species.
Did you know that it is estimated that only 1 out of every 1,000 hatchlings survives to adulthood? Let me backtrack a bit. On average, a nesting sea turtle lays 100-120 eggs per nest. This year, Wassaw Island saw their best nesting season ever with 479 nests (previous record was 330). This is a huge jump from Caretta’s first year of just 35 nests in 1973. Now, you take and multiple the number of nests times (let’s pick the lower of the average) 100 eggs and, if they all hatched, you get 47,900 hatchlings. If you go by that number, only about 48 hatchlings are estimated to reach adulthood!!! That’s a very low number! They don’t even reach sexual maturity until they are about 25-30 years old. Now, take into consideration that a lot of eggs don’t hatch, that number gets even lower.
There are many factors that can spell the demise of an egg or a hatchling. A nest being laid too close to the tide line at high tide, surge from storms, animals (coyotes, foxes, raccoons, crabs, etc) digging up the nest to feast on the eggs, seagulls, holes in the beach, sand castles, and trash. Whew! And they haven’t even gotten to the ocean yet! Could you imagine having all those challenges when you’re only palm size? They still have to swim several miles offshore, dodging sharks, fish, circling birds, and even more trash, to where the Gulf Stream currents and seaweed will pick them up. Here, they will float around for years, growing and munching. The females will return to nest in the same general area where they hatched. Their ability to GPS the sandy coordinates of birth is astounding.
So remember while you’re at the beach this season, fill in holes and knock down sand castles before you leave, pick up your trash and any other trash you see, and only use RED lights on the beach as white lights can lead these precious, little babies away from the water.
Do you just love turtles and want to add a piece of art to your home? You can choose between wall art, note cards, or even a glass cutting board on my website. Click HERE to start your shopping excursion.
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