Learn How Your Change Can Help Save a Sea Turtle
Did you know the Outer Banks is one of the northernmost ranges for sea turtle nesting? There are fives species of sea turtles that visit the Outer Banks: Loggerhead, Green, Kemp’s Ridley, Hawksbill, and Leatherback. Now why is H2OBX sharing information about sea turtles you may ask? This year, through donation boxes around the park and contributions from our guests, H2OBX donated over $1400 to N.E.S.T., a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and conservation of sea turtles and other protected marine wildlife along the Outer Banks coastline.
N.E.S.T. stands for the Network for Endangered Sea Turtles. N.E.S.T. focuses on protection and conservation of sea turtles ranging from the Virginia line down to Oregon Inlet (over 50 miles of beach). Their initiatives include: ATV beach patrols to identify and verify nests, protecting nests and hatchlings, rescue and rehabilitation of stranded sea turtles, and education and support of sea turtle research.
N.E.S.T. was formed in the mid 90’s when their first president Millie Overman saw the need for rehabilitation of sea turtles up and down the beach. When the non-profit was formed, they had started treating sea turtles in their living rooms, as they had no other facilities to treat the injured turtles. Funds were later secured for a small treatment facility at the aquarium, but in 2014 the small facility was replaced with the new STAR (Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation) Center. You can learn more about this facility and even walk through it at the Roanoke Island Aquarium. N.E.S.T. is responsible for rescuing and transporting these sick or injured sea turtles to the STAR Center. Calls can range from being mangled in nets/fishing line, propellor injuries, and one of the biggest calls during the winter months stunned turtles due to the abrupt drop in water temperature.
How can you help? Be sure to call the N.E.S.T. hotline at 252-441-8622 if you see a sea turtle. Keep a safe distance from turtles on the beach as they may be looking for a nesting site. Leave turtle hatchlings on the beach. Turn off all flashlights, cell phone screens, and other lighting during nesting events. Respect nest markers. Report disturbances to the hotline. Remove beach litter such as balloons, plastic bags, and other similar items as they can be mistaken for food in the ocean and ingested by the turtles. Be sure to fill all holes at the end of the beach day, whether it is one you created or one you stumbled across. These holes can become traps for turtles that nest on the beach at night. Remove beach furniture at the end of each beach day as they can also become disrupting to any nesting/hatching overnight.
Fun Facts about Sea Turtles:
- Sea Turtles are air-breathing reptiles meaning they must break the surface of the ocean for air.
- The only healthy sea turtles who visit the Outer Banks that come to shore are female turtles ready to nest and lay eggs.
- Sea turtles visit the Outer Banks from early to mid-summer to lay eggs. These eggs hatch about 50-80 days after they are laid. Most adult sea turtles nest every 2-3 years, laying 3-4 clutches of eggs during a nesting season.
- Sea turtle nests are 18-22 inches deep and hold 75 to 150 ping-pong sized eggs on average.
- Sea turtle hatchlings are about 2 inches long.
- Adult Loggerheads can grow more than 3 feet long ranging from 250-400 pounds.
- Adult Leatherbacks can reach the size of a VW bug!
Next time you are visiting the beach in the summer months, remember who you may be sharing the beach/ocean with. Don’t forget the different ways you can help when you come across any of these sea turtle friends. Your change can make a difference!
Photo and information resource: www.nestonline.org