October 15, 2008

Sea Turtles...It's All About the Light

Sea Turtles Find Human Friends in Pleasure Island, North Carolina

By Judy Muse, Best Friends Network Volunteer
October 10, 2008 : 9:39 AM

The Pleasure Island Sea Turtle Project was created in 2003 to monitor sea turtles on Kure Beach which is one of the two beaches on the island off of Wilmington, N.C., called Pleasure Island.

...Volunteers patrol the beach daily at 6am from May 1-Aug 31 looking for the mother's tracks or “crawl” that she leaves behind when coming ashore to nest. When a crawl is discovered they carefully dig to confirm that eggs were deposited and then monitor the nesting site until hatching 45-70 days later. Occasionally a nest is laid in an undesireable location like below the high tide line or in an area prone to erosion. If this is the case we the volunteers relocate the nest to a better spot.

Once the nest gets close to hatching time, volunteers assemble on the beach to “nest sit,” awaiting the arrival of the hatchlings. When the nest hatches volunteers hope to be on hand to ensure the safety of the hatchlings as they make the trek to the sea. Nests usually hatch after dark and the hatchlings are instinctively drawn towards the brightest light they see, such as the moon's reflection on the water or even white caps on the waves. Since the beaches are packed with vacation homes, hotels, and condos, oftentimes the brightest light the hatchlings see is lights from these structures or streetlights on the road, thus confusing the turtles and drawing them away from the water. So volunteers simulate the moon if need be, with a volunteer stationed down near the water with a lantern to lure the turtles in the right direction. It is very exciting and rewarding to see all those turtles (usually 100 or more!) marching safely to the sea...

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