Bald Head Island Conservancy

2022 Summary: A Record Sea Turtle Nesting Season

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For a fourth consecutive year, the Sea Turtle nesting season on Bald Head Island (BHI) was tremendously successful. The Bald Head Island Conservancy’s (BHIC) Sea Turtle Protection Team (STPT) patrolled the beaches of BHI in summer 2022 for 151 days/nights (22 dawn, 58 partial nights and 71 full nights) and observed 148 nests, with the first being laid on 18 May and the last on 14 August. Additionally, the STPT observed 203 false crawls during summer 2022. Sixty-four genetically unique individual females were responsible for the 351 total nesting activities observed.

Due to the proximity to the high tide line or an escarpment, 68 (45.9%) imperiled nests were relocated. For the second season in a row, a green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) laid a nest on BHI, this time in dramatic fashion under a full moon while 50 beach-goers watched in awe. We also saw the return of 4 legacy turtles – Claire, Sara, The Lovely Mrs. Bites, and Willine. The STPT applied two satellite tags during the 2022 nesting season. Willine and Sara were outfitted with the devices in collaboration with Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s Sea Turtle Biologist Dr. Simona Ceriani. These tags allow us to track the migration patterns and trends throughout the year.

The first hatching event was observed on July 25, while the last two nests were excavated on October 2, with an average incubation time for the 148 nests of 56.9 days. Approximately 16,373 eggs were laid on BHI beaches producing a record number of hatchlings, estimated to be 13,157. Mean hatch success rate was 81.9%, while mean emerge success rate was 78.4%.

For a third consecutive year, two predator exclusion cage (PEC) designs, MasterNet and welded wire, were installed to protect nests. Though coyotes were observed on BHI beaches in summer 2022, there were no successful depredation attempts. This was the first time in the past four years that Bald Head Island did not lose a single egg to coyote depredation. Though, six nests were lost to Hurricane Ian on the September 30, and fortunately, these were the only nests lost during the 2022 season. All nesting activities were performed by loggerhead (Caretta caretta) or green sea turtles, pending genetic confirmation.

All sea turtle monitoring and sample collections were performed pursuant to North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission Endangered Species Permit #22ST14.

 

 

by Paul Hillbrand, Sea Turtle Biologist

 

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