Everything You Need to Know about Sea Turtles
Have you ever wanted to know all about the majestic sea turtles that visit Topsail Island each year? Every summer our twenty-six miles of pristine beaches are not only your favorite destination, but also the favorite destination of dozens of sea turtles! We have all the interesting facts and information you never knew about our beautiful sea turtles right here on our blog!
How We Help Our Sea Turtles on Topsail Island
If you are interested in learning more about the Sea Turtles that visit Topsail Island, check out the folks at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center. With the mission of protecting and releasing sea turtles, this is a wonderful organization that we are so proud to have here on Topsail Island. You can visit the turtles all Summer long.
Visiting Hours: Thursdays and Saturdays from 1-4pm. Summer tours begin Fri., June 1st from 12-4pm. Summer tours will be 12-4pm on Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri & Sat. (closed Wed & Sun)
The Life of a Sea Turtle
Sea Turtles are migratory. Each year female Sea Turtles return to the spot where they were born to lay their eggs. Sea Turtles use magnetic fields, the slope of the shore, and moonlight to find their way to the perfect nesting spot. Sea Turtles have front flippers instead of claws, which makes them excellent swimmers.
Female Sea Turtles use their flippers to dig a nest and then lay their eggs, called a clutch. Each turtle can lay up to 100 eggs. Did you know only 1 out of every 1,000-10,000 eggs survives?!
Eggs will hatch after about 60 days. The temperature of the sand determines the sex of the baby Sea Turtles. Warm sand results in female Sea Turtles and cold sand results in male turtles.
Like their mothers, hatchlings use a combination of light, magnetic fields, wave action, and the slope of the beach to find their way to the surf. Once in the ocean, the hatchlings will swim for 24-36 hours to reach the Gulf Stream and the nutrient-rich seaweed beds where they'll spend the next ten years.
Types of Sea Turtles You Might See on Topsail Island
Topsail Island has several species of sea turtles that make their nests on our beaches. Some are more common than others, but each has unique features and catching a glimpse of any of them is a magical experience you won't forget.
Loggerhead – You are most likely to see a Loggerhead with its egg-shaped shell. It is easy to pick out. Their skin is a tan/blonde hue. It has a proportionally large head. Stranded turtles tend to be > 55 cm in length.
Green – Very common to our beaches, especially as juveniles. Shell colors are variations of brown tones and appear marbled with sunburst rays in each scute. The scutes do not overlap. The underside is creamy white and they feature a flat face and serrated lower jaw.
Kemp’s Ridley – Common as juveniles in our area. It has a round shaped shell (length and width are similar). The coloring is a dull grayish/green/brown shell. Stranded turtles tend to be < 55 cm in length.
Hawksbill – These are very rarely seen on Topsail Island. Their shell is yellowish brown with a marbled tortoise-shell pattern. Scutes overlap and appear ragged, and their heads are slender with a bird-like beak.
Leatherback – Leatherbacks are very uncommon especially near shore.
How You Can Help Topsail Island's Sea Turtles
Protecting these beautiful creatures takes all of our efforts. Each one of us can do things to help ensure our sea turtles have a safe habitat to continue their cycle of life. We encourage all visitors to take a look at the list below of things to do and not to do while visiting Topsail Island. With your help, we can ensure the long-term survival of these wonderful creatures.
If you see a sea turtle nest, call the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center (910) 329-0222 or the local police. Keep a safe distance.
Keep away from turtles on the beach, especially moving turtles that may be looking for a nesting site. To observe, sit quietly away from the turtle.
Leave turtle hatchlings on the beach and respect all nest markers. Do not use artificial light sources. Turn off flashlights, cell phone screens, and all other ocean side lighting during hatching or nesting events.
Throw trash away. Pick up litter on the sand and in the water. Remove beach litter such as balloons and plastic bags as they may be mistaken for food in the ocean and ingested by sea turtles.
Level the sand. Fill in all holes on the beach at the end of the day as they may become traps for female turtles that generally nest on the beach at night.
Remove all beach furniture at the end of the day. Don't leave any additional obstacles on the sand for nesting or hatching sea turtles.
Keep pets on a leash and away from sea turtles and nests. Dogs are naturally curious and may cause unintended harm to nesting females, sea turtle eggs, nests, and hatchlings.
What do you love about sea turtles?
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