There has been a remarkable increase in sea turtle nesting activity at Cape Hatteras National Seashore since night driving restrictions during the turtle nesting season went into effect on Seashore beaches, as mandated by a Court approved Consent Decree.
From 2000 to 2007, before restrictions were put in place, the Seashore averaged 77.4 sea turtle nests annually. From 2008 through 2011 when night driving on Seashore beaches was prohibited from 10 pm to 6 am during the turtle nesting season, the Seashore has averaged 129 nests a year – an increase of 51.6 nests a year over the previous average!
Those four years represent the four highest turtle nest totals ever documented at the Seashore. The new Cape Hatteras off-road vehicle management plan and special regulation became effective on February 15th, 2012, and off-road vehicle driving on Seashore beaches is now prohibited from 9 pm to 7 am during the nesting season.
As of July 19th, 2012, 180 sea turtle nests have been documented, breaking the Seashore’s all-time record.
July is typically the peak month for these ocean creatures to come ashore and deposit one hundred or more leathery, ping pong ball-sized eggs per nest. Approximately 55 to 60 days later, a turtle nest "boil" will occur releasing the hatchlings from their warm, sandy nest.
Four species of sea turtles have been known to nest at Cape Hatteras National Seashore – the loggerhead (Caretta caretta), green (Chelonia mydas), leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), and Kemp’s ridley (Lepidochelys kempii).