Frequently Asked Questions
- Q: How do you know there is a nest here?
A: Volunteers walk the beaches early every morning looking for turtle tracks. They follow the tracks to the nesting site. A trained volunteer carefully, by hand, digs to locate the actual nest. Once verified, the location is marked and roped off.
- Q: Do you always find a nest after you see the tracks?
A: No. Sometimes the female turtle will come on the beach to lay eggs but for some reason she changes her mind. Noise, animals, people might frighten her or she just thinks this is not the right spot and goes back into the ocean. This is called a false crawl.
- Q: How many eggs are there in a nest?
A: The mother turtle will lay between 80 and 200 eggs per nest.
- Q: What do the eggs look like?
A: The eggs look like ping-pong balls
- Q: What does the nest look like?
A: The nest has a cone shape like an inverted light bulb.
- Q: How deep are the eggs buried?
A: The top of the nest is between 10 to 24 inches deep.
- Q: How big are the babies?
A: The shell is approximately 1.5 to 2 inches wide by 2.5 to 3 inches long.
- Q: How big do the turtles get?
A: Our main nesting turtles are called Loggerheads and they range from 200 to 400 pounds.
- Q: When is the nest going to hatch?
A: Around two months from the time the eggs were laid. This can vary throughout the nesting season depending on weather conditions. Only the hatchlings know when the time is right for them to leave the safety of the nest.
- Q: What determines the sex of the baby turtles?
A: The main factor is the temperature of the nest. If the temperature is warmer than 84.2F, the hatchling will be females, cooler temperatures create males.
- Q: Once they make it to the water, will the hatchlings be safe?
A: The best estimates is only 1 out of 1000 will make it to maturity. To start, with they must swim to the Gulf Stream which is approximately 30-50 miles offshore. They stay there for about 15+ years until they become juveniles. If possible, the mature female will return to the same area that she came from to lay her eggs.
- Q: How does the hatchling get out of its shell?
A: With the aid of an egg tooth that is attached to the beak, the hatchling breaks out of the shell. They will remain under the sand until they absorb the egg yolk from the egg…this is usually 2-3 days. They are air breathers, but there is enough air in the empty shells for them to survive.
- Q: Why do the turtles need human help?
A: Humans have destroyed the majority of their nesting sites. Female adult will not nest if people, animals, noise or lights disturb her. The hatchling will go toward lights on homes, streets and piers versus heading for the ocean.
- What is a boil?
A: When hatchlings come out of the nesting site all at once, it is called a boil (very exciting to see). At some nest only a few come out at a time…this is called a trickle.
- Q: What is an excavation?
A: After a hatch, we will dig out the nest, count the empty shells, release hatchlings that could not get out on their own, count rotten eggs, pipped eggs and eggs that might still have a chance to hatch. Excavations are allowed 3 days after a boil and 5 days after a trickle. All findings or data are reported to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.
- Q: What is a pipped egg?
A: One that has an alive or dead turtle that started to come out of the shell.
- Q: What do you do with eggs that might hatch?
A: Rebury them and check on them daily.
- Q: What do you do with lived pipped turtles or injured baby turtles?
A: Take them to Pine Knoll Shore aquarium.
- Q: Can we take a shell or a dead hatchling home?
A: No! Since these are endangered or threatened we must rebury everything.
- Q: What is a stranding and what do you do with them?
A: A live stranding (injured) goes to Karen Beasley Sea Turtle hospital. For a dead stranding, we take measurements, photos, and a flipper to send to Labs in Morehead; then the body is buried.