Oak Island could break record for sea turtle nests


OAK ISLAND, NC (WWAY) —  The Town of Oak Island is preparing for a potentially record breaking number of sea turtle nests this year, with 91 and counting. Do you know what to do if you see a nest, or a turtle laying one?

With five different species laying eggs on our beaches, it can be an exciting time for both residents and visitors. However, it’s also important to keep the animals safe.

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Kristin Holloman-Noe, outreach coordinator for the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, says plastic bags, soda can rings, straws, and balloons can be especially dangerous to turtles. The animals often mistake those items for food.

“If you can leave the beach cleaner than you found it, that’s great,” Holloman-Noe said. “So anything you bring with you, take it back with you. If you see any trash, or anything that’s there on the beach, go ahead and clean it up.”

Holloman-Noe also says to fill in any holes you or your kids dig during the day.

“Females nesting could fall into those holes. Once we get into hatching season, hatchlings could fall into those holes,” she said.

Eileen Ramsdale with the Oak Island Sea Turtle Protection Program says the east coast has been experiencing a surge in turtle nests this year. So far, there are 91 confirmed nests in Oak Island alone.

“Our state biologist is not sure whether it’s the heat and the temperature of the water that’s bringing the turtles earlier, or whether the species is really recovering that much,” Ramsdale said.

Ramsdale says the highest recorded number of nests in Oak Island in a single season was 115. With 30 to 40 more potential days of nesting to go, this could be a record breaking year.

More than 100 volunteers monitor nests to see when they are preparing to hatch, and help the turtles navigate to the water.

“If you see edging, green edging, around the nest heading down towards the water, that means that we are anticipating that the nest will hatch, and anybody is welcome,” Ramsdale said. “Everybody is welcome.”

Ramsdale says if you the biggest rule if you see a turtle on the beach is no flashlights or flash photography. If you see a female laying a nest, call the local police department so they can inform that town’s volunteer group.