By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Loggerhead nesting season off to promising start
A nesting Loggerhead - photo by Photo provided.
BRUNSWICK — The sight of tiny turtles scurrying toward the ocean is a promising sign for the loggerhead sea turtle. And this year, nest numbers of this imperiled species are at a record high in Georgia.
Two-inch-long loggerhead hatchlings are emerging all along the state's coast, beginning a journey that may last more than 70 years. As of July 31, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and other Sea Turtle Cooperative members had counted 1,544 loggerhead nests, surpassing the previous state mark of 1,504 nests set in 2003. The total last year slipped to 688, the third lowest since daily monitoring began in 1989.
This year, islands such as Sapelo and Little St. Simons are reporting record-breaking highs of 140 and 103 nests, respectively. Data for June and July shows other barrier islands like Ossabaw having an average year. Cooperators have counted 191 nests on Ossabaw.
"It is important to remember that we do not have all the data yet," said Mark Dodd, a senior wildlife biologist with the DNR's Wildlife Resources Division. "We anticipate close to 1,600 nests this year as the season wraps up in the next week or so, but nests will continue to hatch out right into early October."
In addition to high nest counts there is more good news. Sea turtle strandings, or deaths often due to collisions with watercraft, are down. Strandings this year include only three nesting females compared to eight to 10 per year in past years.
Low stranding totals combined with high nesting numbers may mean a banner year for loggerheads, Georgia's primary nesting sea turtle.
"This is good news but it is just one year and the important thing to understand is the long-term trend in nesting and that there can be huge fluctuations from year to year," said Dodd, who works with Wildlife Resources' Nongame Conservation Section.
Sign up for our e-newsletters