After finding the false crawl, we head down the beach to look for more new turtle tracks.
As we go through this journey, you can keep track of this season’s turtle nests in Georgia at seaturtle.org. Remember, sea turtles are protected by federal law. If you see a turtle or a nest on the beach, do not disturb it by keeping your distance and by not shining lights at or around it.
Anna is excellent at finding crawls through the sand. Due to the extremely high tides during our visit, only a couple of feet of tracks are visible. Right at the end of the crawl, there is a dug out area. This area is possibly where the turtle laid her eggs. In the picture above, Anna retraces the path of the turtle.
The sea turtle could have left her eggs anywhere in this large area, so Anna methodically and carefully uses to dowel to find differences in the sand density.
After finding a possible nest, she digs by hand as to not disturb any of the eggs. This may or may not be the right area, but Anna doesn’t want to take a chance. When I asked how many of the eggs survive into mature adulthood, she said, “Not even one from each nest.” The Georgia Sea Turtle Center cites that 75% of the eggs hatch, but only .01% of the eggs laid make it to adulthood. After a sea turtle hatchling’s long walk to the beach without protection, it must brave the ocean. A loggerhead turtle, which is the most common on the Georgia coast, does not reach maturity until about 35 years of age (National Wildlife Federation [NWF]). This is why sea turtle research and conservation is so important!
Luckily, Anna finds the nest on her first dig! The sand in other nests later in the day is so variable that it takes digging in up to four different places to find the nest.
Each time a technician or biologist finds a nest, they take a genetic sample. Adult females come back to the beach that they were born on to lay their eggs (NWF), so the genetic database is one way of tracking the turtles. Anna recently found two nests so close together that she wondered if the mama turtles were sisters!
(c) Website and all images copyright Kaitlin Taylor 2016