Fort Fisher rangers, volunteers rescue sea turtle hatchlings

One of 107 hatchling green sea turtles dug from a nest Saturday.
One of 107 hatchling green sea turtles dug from a nest Saturday.

Park rangers, volunteers and visitors joined to rescue 107 hatchling green sea turtles Saturday at Fort Fisher State Recreation Area. One of two green sea turtle nests under watch had failed to produce hatchlings after the normal 60-day waiting period, and volunteers had become concerned that excessive sand accumulated by ocean over-wash and wind had buried the nest too deeply.

The volunteers and Park Superintendent Jeff Owen decided to excavate the nest.  With the help of some visitors, they dug down by hand about 3.5 feet. Sure enough, the turtles had hatched but were unable to reach the surface on their own. The turtles were held in a cardboard box near sunset, when normally they’d make a dash to the ocean under cover of twilight or darkness. To help with that, the volunteers fashioned a shallow trench in the sand to guide the little ones seaward.

It was also a teaching moment for Owen, park assistant ranger Lindsey Baker and the turtle watch volunteers. Owen told the gathering crowd that with turtles, it’s a numbers game – statistically, only one in 1,000 young turtles survives to adulthood, and it takes at least 20 years for a female to mature enough to lay eggs. This has been a record turtle year at Fort Fisher with 52 loggerhead sea turtle nests along with the two green sea turtle hatches. Here’s a photo gallery of the rescue. Click on any photo to begin. (Submitted by Chief Ranger Bryan Dowdy)

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