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Sea turtle nest counts top record
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BRUNSWICK — Cooler weather has come to Georgia’s coast and with it the close of a record-breaking nesting season for loggerhead sea turtles. Due to storms, however, a nest success rate slightly lower than normal is expected for the threatened species.  
The good news is that 1,646 loggerhead nests were counted on barrier island beaches this summer. Cumberland and Blackbeard recorded the highest number at 336 and 261, respectively. The season total represents a record year in Georgia, breaking the previous mark of 1,504 nests set in 2003. Last year’s total dipped to 688, the third-lowest since daily monitoring began in 1989.
Federal criteria require at least 2,000 nests a year for a 25-year period for the species to be considered recovered.
In August, Tropical Storm Fay swept through the waters off Georgia, creating a surge that inundated and washed away some nests. The lack of a direct hit on the barrier islands tempered the storm’s effect. However, loggerhead nests still felt the impact.
Researchers and volunteers reported that high tides from Fay damaged approximately 8 percent of the nests.
“Generally we have about a 70 percent success rate,” said Mark Dodd, a senior wildlife biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Nongame Conservation Section. “We expect that this year it will be a little lower than normal. Luckily, approximately 50 percent of the nests had already hatched at the time of the storm, so we expect to still have a pretty good year for hatchling production.”
Final nest success numbers are tallied and released by early 2009.
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