According to a recent press release, this August and September, Cape Hatteras National Seashore is offering park visitors an opportunity to observe excavations of recently hatched sea turtle nests. During an excavation, biologists will dig up the hatched nest, count empty eggshells, and collect un-hatched eggs for research. Live and dead hatchlings are occasionally found during these excavations.
The first public excavations of the season will likely take place in early August. Persons interested in finding out when and where an excavation will take place can call the excavation program hotline at (252) 475-9629. Due to the unpredictability of sea turtle hatchings, notice of these excavation programs is usually posted only one day in advance–so check the hotline often. While the biologists perform their examination of the nest, a park ranger will present a program on sea turtles and share what the biologists have found.
Nest excavations are an important way for the National Park Service to collect valuable data on sea turtle hatch and emergence success rates. These data are added to the turtle nesting databases for the Seashore and the State of North Carolina.
Each spring and summer, female sea turtles–loggerhead, green, and occasional leatherback–make a brief trip to the shores of Cape Hatteras National Seashore to nest. Approximately two months later, under the cover of darkness, up to 150 hatchlings emerge from each deep sandy nest in a mad dash across the beach to reach the safety of the Atlantic Ocean.