Experts ask beachgoers to tread lightly as rare sea turtles show up on NC coast

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First Kemp's Ridley sea turtle nest ever on BHI in May 2020. (Photo: Chris and Gean Anson & Lauren Schaale)

A second rare sea turtle nested along the shores of eastern North Carolina in recent weeks, in Atlantic Beach, and an expert is cautioning beachgoers and turtle watchers to tread lightly around the creatures rarely seen in the area.

Atlantic Beach Sea Turtle Coordinator Michele Lamping says the season’s first local Kemp’s ridley sea turtle laid her eggs on Bald Head Island, the first record of its species nesting there. The second was in Atlantic Beach.

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Lamping says they are listed as endangered everywhere, and on some lists critically endangered.

“They’re classified as the rarest sea turtle because they have such small numbers,” she explained.

The turtles have one primary nesting location and Lamping says 95 percent are on just a few beaches in the West Gulf of Mexico.

However, she says between two and four nests have been recorded every year for the last ten years on North Carolina beaches; in 2018 there were a record 12 Kemp’s Ridley nests in North Carolina. Juvenile Kemps like to live along ENC waters but don’t often stay as adults and instead relocate to the nesting areas in Mexico.

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