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Volunteers with the Topsail Turtle Project monitor all 26 miles of shoreline along Topsail Island each day during turtle nesting season to identify turtle nests and ensure their safety and that of the eggs they contain.
Topsail Island is a nesting site for sea turtles, which are endangered.
From May through August, adult female sea turtles that are at least 25–30 years old make their way onto the beach to lay their eggs.
They drag their bodies, which can weigh over 400 pounds, across the sand until they are above the high-tide line at the dunes. They then dig with their rear flippers until they have a hole large enough to contain their clutch of approximately 120 ping-pong ball sized eggs.
They then bury their nests and then head back to the water to mate again.
The eggs hatch in about 60 days and only one in 1,000 hatchlings survives its first year. The odds of a hatchling surviving into adulthood decrease to about one in 5,000 to 10,000.
Adult females do not nest every year, taking a year or two off to recuperate. During the years that they do nest, they generally lay three to five nests, several weeks apart.
The females do not return to the nest or raise their young; the hatchlings are on their own. The Topsail Turtle Project volunteers nest sit as hatch time draws near and monitor the hatching to make sure the baby turtles make it to the ocean safely.
Volunteers with the Topsail Turtle Project are affiliated with the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center also known as the turtle hospital.
To report any sea turtle activity (nests, hatches and stranded turtles, dead or alive) contact Terry Meyer at 910-470-2880.