As the ocean waters of North Carolina warm up many folks begin thinking of their vacation time on the magical beaches of the Outer Banks. Mama sea turtles also begin to think of those beaches to start their annual nesting.
It is zero dark thirty on May 1 and dedicated Network for Endangered Sea Turtles (N.E.S.T.) volunteers prepare to travel to the five designated all-terrain vehicles (ATV) sites to begin their beach search for threatened and endangered sea turtle nests.
After a close inspection of the ATV, the drivers don their helmets, put on their safety vests and no earlier than ½ hour before sunrise mount their trusty steed (ATV) for their morning beach patrol to discover any nests laid by mama sea turtle during the night or perhaps find a mama sea turtle laying her nest.
The N.E.S.T. ATV drivers (also known as the quad squad) are a dedicated group of volunteers. The group consists of approximately 50 men and women who volunteer to drive their assigned day of the week in search of sea turtle nests. The Network for Endangered Sea Turtles (N.E.S.T.) is a completely volunteer organization who monitors sea turtle nests on the beaches of the Outer Banks starting North at the VA/NC state line to the beginning of Cape Hatteras National Seashore bordering South Nags Head.
There are five species of threatened and endangered sea turtles who may lay their eggs on the beaches of the Outer Banks. They are the Loggerhead (the most predominate sea turtle nester on the Outer Banks), the Green, Kemps Ridley, Hawksbill and Leatherback.
When a sea turtle nest is discovered by a N.E.S.T. ATV driver an immediate call is made to Charlotte/Jerry at the 24/7 N.E.S.T. hotline and a N.E.S.T. sea turtle nest response team is dispatched to the nesting site.
Should you experience a mama sea turtle nesting or view what appears to be the tracks of a military tank please immediately call the N.E.S.T. hotline at 252-441-8622. If you find a nesting sea turtle, keep your distance, do not harass or take flash photography (the flash from your camera may disturb the sea turtle and she may return to the ocean without nesting). Do not disturb the nesting area or tracks.
Some things that you can do to aid nesting mama sea turtles are:
Turn off your ocean front outside lights. Good beach ediquette is to take all your beach gear with you when you leave the beach. Do not leave beach umbrellas, canopy or canopy shells on the beach after you leave, FILL in all holes on the beach and level those terrific sand castles you made. The nesting sea turtles and the N.E.S.T. ATV drivers appreciate your efforts to aid in the survival of one of nature’s finest.
The sea turtle nesting season runs from May 1 to approximately September 1 and if you see a N.E.S.T. ATV volunteer driver on the beach he or she will be more than happy to answer any brief questions you may have on sea turtles and be sure to ask for a N.E.S.T. brochure and sea turtle information card.
The N.E.S.T. ATV fleet comes in different colors … green, red and for the 2018 nesting season a new pink sea turtle ATV. Simply Southern Tees in addition to a generous donation to N.E.S.T. provided a “talk of the beach” turtle wrap.
Zoom, zoom in hopes for a great sea turtle nesting season in 2018