Each spring and summer, female sea turtles – loggerhead, green, and occasionally leatherback – make a brief trip to the shores of Cape Hatteras National Seashore to nest. Approximately two months later, under the cover of darkness, up to 150 hatchlings emerge from each sandy nest in a mad dash across the beach to reach the safety of the Atlantic Ocean.
This year, the park is offering visitors an opportunity to observe excavations of recently hatched sea turtle nests during the months of July, August, and September. An “excavation” is the process completed by biologists to document what remains in the nest after a natural hatch has occurred.
During an excavation, the biologist digs up the nest, counts eggshells, and collects un-hatched eggs for research. Live hatchlings are sometimes found during these excavations. While the biologist examines the nest, a ranger presents a program on sea turtles and shares what the biologists have found.
Nest excavations are an important way for the National Park Service to collect valuable data on sea turtle hatch and emergence success rates. This data is added to the turtle nesting databases for both the park and the state of North Carolina.