Sunset Beach, just minutes from Brunswick Plantation and Golf Resort, is the nesting place for Loggerhead Turtles (Caretta in Latin). The Turtle Watch at Sunset Beach program is a private, non-profit program that solicits volunteers to help monitor turtle nesting at Sunset Beach, North Carolina.
· Record nesting sites
· Move nests that might be threatened
· Record turtle hatches
· Help hatchlings reach the ocean safely.
Loggerhead turtles are most common to North Carolina Beaches though other turtles feed on our waters. The Loggerhead Sea Turtle is considered a “Threatened” species, which grants it protection under the U.S. Endangered Act (ESA).
Facts about the Loggerhead Turtle:
· Loggerhead Turtles get their name because they have the largest head of all sea turtles and the oversized head resembles a log.
· Most of the nesting takes place in the evening or early morning from May through August.
· Baby turtles begin hatching in July and continue through October.
· These turtles can lay 4 to 7 nests a year and usually nest every 2 years.
· The female Loggerhead uses her front flippers to clear a spot in the dry sand.
· She uses her hind flippers to position herself so that the eggs fall gently into the hole as she lays them.
· Hatchlings dig their way through sand toward the surface and wait just underneath the last layer of sand until nightfall.
· Once cooler temperatures indicate that the sun has set, hatchlings pop the rest of the way out and scurry toward the water.
· Newly hatched Loggerheads are about 2 inches (5 centimeters) long.
· The first 7 – 12 years Loggerheads live far out at sea and must always be on the lookout for sharks.
Dangerous Journey to the water due to:
· Predators, such as seagulls, raccoons, and foxes.
· Disorientation as hatchlings head toward brightest horizon, normally over the sea but may be distracted by bright lights from houses, stores, & other artificial lights.
· Babies that head toward artificial light usually die.
· Some nests are laid too close to the tide line and will be lost if not relocated.
· There is a high mortality rate for turtle eggs due to predition of ghost crabs, raccoons, and foxes.
Only one hatchling in a thousand makes it to adulthood (15-25 years).
· If they reach adulthood, they can live to be over 100 years.
· An average size for an adult Loggerhead Turtle is 36 inches long, weighing 250 pounds.
· Loggerheads are primarily carnivores that eat jellyfish, conches, squid, crustaceans and fish, but also munch on seaweed and sargassum.
· Loggerheads crush their food with their powerful jaws.
· Mature females will return to the same beach where they were born.
· Dangers to the survival of Loggerhead turtles include sharks, birds, fish, fishing gear (long line), ingestion of marine debris, boat strikes, trash on beaches & pollution.
· Nesting sites for all sea turtles are limited by over development of beaches.
Though turtles are reptiles that records show have been in existence since the time of the dinosaurs 200 million years ago, they are now endangered. Turtles are an exciting reptile to watch and enjoy. There are things we can do to protect them. The following are some stated by the Sunset beach Turtle Watch Program.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO SAVE OUR SEA TURTLES
· Avoid disturbing a turtle that is crawling to or from the ocean.
· DO NOT shine lights or take flash photos of the turtle.
· Stay off turtle tracks.
· Sit quietly in the dark, at a distance, to watch her.
· It is against the law to disturb her and/or her nest in any way.
· Stay clear of turtle nests.
· Avoid walking or riding vehicles near the nests.
· DO NOT disturb markers or screens that may be protecting the nests.
· Markers usually consist of wooden stakes outlined with bright tape or ribbon.
· More of what to do for The Hatchlings And suggestions for A Day At The Beach @ www.sunsetbeachturtles.org\
Loggerhead Sea Turtles are a joy to watch and part of the heritage of our earth. I found a song written for them on YouTube titled Caretta,Caretta Sea Turtle Song. One of my favorite lines is “Swim with the tides and know you are free.” Check it out for yourself on YouTube!
The Good News is:
2012 was a good nesting season for Loggerhead turtles in North Carolina, as more than 1,000 loggerhead nests were observed…the second highest number on record.
Brunswick Plantation and Golf Resort is close to many beautiful beach areas and Sunset Beach is a favorite of many folks here. Loggerhead sea turtles are just one more reason to enjoy the season in North Carolina! So, shed your shell…It’s Turtle Time! Ya’ll come!
Credit goes to the Sunset Beach Turtle Watch program site and National geographic for Kids on Loggerhead Turtles for information for this article.