I have no idea why that title struck me but there we have it. It will make some sense in a minute…bear with me. So, we ate far too much food tonight after a full day of body surfing and skim boarding…with no broken bones! It was still early so we decided to take a stroll on the beach, narrow as it was. Our location on Topsail is strange…at low tide, the beach is quite wide and pretty nice to be upon. At high tide, however, the ocean comes within a few feet of…whatever you call it…where the beach ends.
So, we decided to take a walk on the narrow beach this evening and we happened upon a group of folks who were into something important…well, we figured that a body had washed up on shore. Luckily it wasn’t that. Apparently, last night a momma loggerhead turtle had laid a nest of eggs on the beach and the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center staff were busy relocating the turtle eggs from the narrow beach location further up on the dune nearby. They had a number of folks present…almost like they had done this before. One guy was there to answer questions. He told us that there are 26 miles of beaches that make up Topsail island and that every quarter mile or so, there is a turtle egg site. That makes just over 100 nesting sites. Volunteers walk the entire beach every day during the laying season to make sure they find all of the nests. They relocate nearly all of those sites to safer locations away from foot traffic and storm surges. In each move, two folks work on digging the eggs and placing them into a bucket to carry to the new site. It is a state law that the eggs be counted and confirmed during the move. Their starting and ending locations are gps mapped and one egg is harvested to maintain a DNA record.
By collecting and tracking DNA, staff have determined that loggerhead turtles do not necessarily return to the exact same nesting spot each year but that there are apparently a few spots they use. One staff member said they had tracked one DNA signature between Topsail, the Outer Banks and one other place I can’t remember. Pretty cool I’d say!
The Q&A staff member said that 93% of the eggs hatch but that only 1 in 4000 or so live to maturity. Their biggest predator/enemy is humans of course. Between fishing, pollution and stupidity, humans apparently take quite a toll. Fishing vessels are now equipped with turtle escape devices (TEDs) to allow captured turtles to safely escape so steps are being taken to lessen human impact some.
So, the staff dug 157 eggs from the nest we observed and gently placed them into a new nest. They covered the site with a welded wire fence to prevent predators from digging and marked the site to prevent human interference. All in all, it was a really great encounter we had on the beach and I have been thinking about the turtles all evening. They are endangered and it makes me sad to think that someday we may not be able to witness such an interesting and truly cool scene. I guess it’s good to see things like this and to take pause now and then. It’s good to get a little loggerhead in your head I think!