Turtle nesting season officially begins May 1 on the coast of North Carolina and lasts through October 31.
Throughout those months, female sea turtles will come up onto North Carolina beaches to make nests to lay their eggs. Each nest can have up to around 120 eggs that are all roughly the size of a ping pong ball.
The turtle will dig a hole in the sand about one to two feet below the surface, lay the eggs, then cover the hole back up with sand.
According to seaturtle.org, a majority of the turtle nests in North Carolina come from loggerheads with a few green turtles and leatherbacks each year.
With all of that being said, the conditions for turtles to lay their eggs on the beach need to be just right.
Here is a list of dos and don’ts from some local turtle patrols to make sure our beaches are a safe environment for turtles to nest
- Turn off all the lights that face the ocean at night if you are in a house on the beach, including carports. If you are staying up late and have the lights on, make sure to close the blinds.
- Use a red filtered flashlight when walking on the beach at night. You can put a piece of red cloth over your flashlight to do this.
- Pick up any trash, especially plastic, from the beach.
- Fill in any large sand hole you dig on the beach before you leave. They could trap a turtle.
- Call your local turtle patrol if you see a mother turtles laying nests, injured or stranded turtles, unattended hatchlings, disturbed nests or harassment of a sea turtle
- Remove beach chairs, and any other items you bring to the beach when you leave for the day.
- Respect protected areas. Areas that have been roped off or labeled as “off-limits” in order to protect the nest and hatchlings should be respected.
- Stay behind the turtle and out of it field of view as it ascends the beach.
- Do not release balloons on the beach. These items look like jellyfish to sea turtles.
- Do not use flash cameras or shine a light if you see a mother turtle or baby turtle on the beach.
- Do not follow a mother turtle on the beach or make loud noises around her. Mother turtles can be easily frightened and if stressed may go back into the ocean without laying eggs. Call your local turtle patrol immediately.
- Stand in front of the turtle or impede its movements in any way.
Sea turtles are protected under federal and state law and any activity that threatens that protection could be punishable.
Here’s a guide to local turtle patrols of the beaches in Southeastern North Carolina. If you have any questions regarding any of the do’s and don’ts, or if you happen to see a turtle nesting, reach out to the local turtle patrol immediately.
- Bald Head Island Conservancy – Brooke Milligan (910) 457-0089
- Carolina Beach – Nancy Busovne (910) 538-2918
- Caswell Beach – Gary and Susan Holbrooks (910) 880-0994
- Figure 8 Island – David Webster – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ft. Fisher State Recreation Area – Patrick Amico (910) 458-5798
- Holden Beach – Pat Cusack (910) 755-6515
- Kure Beach – Jody Smith (910) 352-1765
- Oak Island – Jacci Hohnstein (910) 278-5581
- Ocean Isle Beach – Deb Allen (704) 607-2027
- Sunset Beach – Carmel Zetts (910) 579-5862
- Topsail Island – Terry Meyer (910) 470-2880
- Wrightsville Beach – Nancy Fahey (910) 791-4541