Network for Endangered Sea Turtles
Female loggerheads, green turtles and leatherbacks usually come ashore to nest at night. Although nearsighted when they are out of the water, adult female sea turtles nevertheless can distinguish movement and light, and can be easily frightened and discouraged from laying eggs. The best way to avoid disturbing a nesting female is to not use a flashlight or camera/video flash when on the beach at night. If you must absolutely use a light, place a red filter over the flashlights. This is because the eyes of sea turtles are least sensitive to longer visible wavelengths of light (greater than 600 nm, which is red). If you see a female coming out of the surf, immediately turn off all lights and do not move. Wait until she has moved up the beach beyond you and has started digging before you move again. Then immediately contact the N.E.S.T. Hotline 252-441-8622. Please provide as much information as you can: Date, Time and location of the sighting.
When a crawl is found on the beach the first step is to determine whether or not the crawl resulted in a nest (non-nesting crawls are also known as false crawls, half-moons and dry-runs). In most cases, non-nesting crawls are easily distinguished from nesting emergences because there will be little to no disturbed or excavated sand associated with the crawl. However, females will sometimes begin digging a nest chamber, give up and return to the water without laying any eggs. She may even make several separate nesting attempts, leaving a series of abandoned nest cavities before returning to the water. Under these circumstances, it is difficult to visually identify these crawls as non-nesting events.
You can distinguish between the arrival and departure crawl by looking for the direction that the sand is pushed in while the turtle was crawling (A and D in the figure). Also, examining the tracks and their relationship to the high tide line (E) can help determine the arrival crawl. Once determined, follow the arrival crawl up to the area where the sand is disturbed.
In the disturbed sand area (B and C in the figure), there may be two “body pits” or differentiated areas of digging. The primary body pit is the larger of the two (C) and usually the turtle makes this just before digging the nest chamber. The smaller chamber (B) is made after nesting, when the turtle covers and camouflages the site. False crawls with disturbed sand usually will not have a well-defined secondary body pit.
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P.O. Box 1168
Kitty Hawk, NC 27949
REPORT ALL NESTING TURTLES, TURTLE CRAWLS, stranded/dead turtles, OR HATCHING EVENTS on the Outer Banks to the