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Volunteers try to protect sea turtle nests from predators searching for meal

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TOPSAIL BEACH, NC (WWAY) -- Topsail Beach has been busy this summer, and not just with tourists. Sea turtles have been making their way to the beach to lay their eggs, but now the are facing some hardships.

With more than 90 sea turtle nests on Topsail Beach and more 100 eggs in most of those nests, that's thousands of sea turtles right on our shores. But it's not an easy job to make it from the nest back to the ocean.

After more than two months of incubation, the hatchlings finally make their way to the water, but life has already proven difficult for the new turtles. The hatchlings must first survive their incubation period, which is sometimes compromised by natural predators, like foxes and coyotes, who love a tasty snack.

Terry Meyer with the Karen Beasely Sea Turtle Hospital in Topsail Beach says this has already been a problem for some of the nests on their beaches.

"This year, more than ever, we have a lot of fox and coyote that love turtle eggs, and they have been very ambitious and crafty in trying to find those eggs or trying to find the hatchlings," Meyer said.

Meyer says the hospital is doing everything in its power to keep the predators away. Volunteers have covered the nests with cages that the foxes and coyotes can not get in, but the turtles can get out. They have also lined the perimeter of the nest with hot pepper or urine to keep the hungry beach goers away. She says she thinks they know just where to look to get their favorite treat.

"Each year they're teaching their pups and their kits here's where the turtle nests are," Meyer said. "They mark them off with four posts and orange flagging tape, and I think they're learning that it is a nest, so it's a challenge, but all the North Carolina beaches share that challenge."

Meyer says people can also harm the nests, but she thinks they know better than to mess with the sensitive area. She says it is everyone's responsibility to keep the turtles safe and sound.

So far, there are 95 nests on the beach. Ten have already hatched, but a few have already been found and eaten by predators.

Meyer says the volunteers will continue to do their best to keep the nests safe.

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Save the babies!

The sign says that it is against the law to harm the turtles' eggs. Why does the government protect unborn turtles, but not unborn babies? The sign and the law are saying that just because a turtle resides inside an egg doesn't mean it's not a turtle- it just needs a safe place to grow before being hatched. Similarly, just because a baby resides inside his mommy doesn't mean he's not a human- he just needs a safe place to grow before being born.

I'm sure that the turtle

I'm sure that the turtle lovers are doing no harm spreading urine and pepper and who knows what else. I even hear that they like to dig up the nests and count the eggs.

Turtle soup is good and so are turtle eggs.

Foxes and Coyotes

Both of them are definitely on the island. I know for a fact they are on the south end of the island at Topsail Beach because I have seen them near Catherine Avenue in the live oak forest at night. You don't see many stray cats near the south end of the island and coyotes and foxes are responsible. You can look it up on google about rabid foxes on North Topsail Beach.

Bottom line they are both found on the Topsail Beach.

If adult cats are vanishing, then it's coyotes or feral dogs

Foxes will usually leave adult cats alone. They will grab a kitten if they can.

In general, cats pose a bigger threat to foxes because while a fox will occasionally prey upon a kitten, adult cats will enter an unguarded den and simply kill every kit in there without eating one of them. (Cats are the only animals that think about killing twenty-four hours a day.)

cats

"Cats are the only animals that think about killing twenty-four hours a day."
Cats, and some humans...

Foxes and Coyotes

at the beach? Please, with all of the building, and the reduced ground cover, where are these predators coming from? And why has no one actually seen signs of these on island creatures?

What's next? Road Runners?

Tell me unthinking summer renters who think it is so "kool" to shine flashlights on them which causes them to become disoriented --I'll buy that.

But foxes and coyotes, please.

Bears, I have seen on the island.

Gators, I have seen on the island.

Snakes, I have seen on the island.

Red beaked, seer suckered summer renters, I have seen on the island.

But not foxes and coyotes. At least not four legged varieties.

Tom, I can absolutely, positively guarantee you...

...that raccoons LOVE sea turtle eggs and you have hundreds of raccoons on the island.

I'd bet money that you have a few foxes, too...

Hey common

we have seen an influx of foxes on the mainland side of the intra-coastal, apparently caused by temporary migrations due to the fires.

Now there is a thought; get the hounds and horses out and ride to the hounds like the landed gentry.

The same may be true of raccoons; not certain though as they are easily confused with the Northern Summer Renter which migrates south during the season.

But Coyotes?

Seriouly, one of the more severe problems is caused by folks using flashlights at night which dosorients the hatchlings and can turn them from the ocean and head them toward the roads.

No, I doubt that coyotes are a problem on Topsail

I'm sure a few visit every now and then, but there's not enough prey on the island to keep them around. However, they're incredibly intelligent, and if they have learned that the turtles nest at this time of year they might swim over to the island at dusk to raid nests all night, then swim back at dawn.

I know they visit the larger spoil islands because I've seen canid tracks unaccompanied by human tracks (so they're likely not dogs). A lot of the larger spoil islands have small groups of deer. I know one island that has a large buck, an eight pointer the last time I saw him, probably closing in on 250. He has a harem of about four does. I have no idea how he could be so healthy out there. You'd think their diet would be very poor.

The coyote problem down here in Northeast New Hanover is getting very bad. At night you can hear them running the deer on the golf courses, and occasionally a solitary individual will roam the streets. A friend saw one crossing Porters Neck Road and entering Bluepoint. Another friend was running at dawn and saw one on the road in front of her that didn't seem the least bit intimidated by her approaching. She said that it was as tall at the ears as any German Shepherd she's seen.

It's only a matter of time before pets start disappearing. When I'm home I keep a rifle handy at all times and coyotes have joined pit vipers as the only animals I will kill on sight for the safety of my dog and cats.

It's ironic that you mention those mainland foxes. Guess what species is sufferring the most because of the coyote proliferation? Foxes, red and gray, are under tremendous pressure from a more capable predator...who will not hesitate to prey on them, given a chance.

perhaps

There is a possibility of coyotes. They have been spotted in our area before, not sure if they are on the island though. If they are on the island it would really hard to see them since they do not want to be seen.
Flashlights could be a problem though bright lights from houses or streets could be more of a problem if left on. Not familar with the area where these particular nests are.
Seagulls and fishes would cause the biggest threat however.
I wouldn't rule out a random coyote though, and racoons do love them too as was pointed out.