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Must Love Turtles!

I am a turtle lover!  OK, I must admit, I haven’t always felt this way.  I’ve always thought they were cute and once I had a pet turtle as a kid….  But that was it.  My knowledge of turtles was pretty limited.  However, in 2009 a wonderful thing happened.  I was given an opportunity through my job, to transfer to the Topsail Island area!   So, with a leap of faith, I moved.   One of the many things that make Topsail Island special is its affinity toward sea turtles. That first summer, walking down the beach with my cool new Sketchers flip flops, I stumbled on some folks standing around this protective turtle nest. I asked what was happening and someone said they were waiting for the turtles to hatch. The incubation period of 45-55 days was closing in and it could happen any time now.   Well it didn’t happen that night or the night after that. However, the time did come and I was able to be there for the experience. Let me tell you, besides from the birth of my own children, this single experience was the most miraculous thing I ever witnessed!   That was the beginning of my love affair with turtles.

Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Hospital

 

Topsail is home to the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation.  As a young girl, Karen saw a need to preserve and protect the Sea Turtles nests.  She and her mother would be on” Turtle Patrol”, waiting and watching turtle nests. Staying all night if need be.    After Karen’s death, her mother Jean Beasley, took Karen’s vision and organized a small group of dedicated volunteers known as the Topsail Turtle Project.   It opened its doors in 1997 on Topsail Beach.  This small group of dedicated volunteers working tirelessly caring for injured turtles that were brought in by local fishermen and other areas around who brought turtles in.  They also divided the 26-mile-long beach into sections so that each volunteer could monitor morning and night for turtle nests.  For more information visit the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center.  

 

A Little Turtle Talk

 

That was 8 years ago, and I have learned a lot since then.  Topsail Island is of the few islands in North Carolina that has been designated a turtle sanctuary. Because Topsail is considered a barrier island with warm waters, it provides an excellent destination for turtles to lay their eggs.  Here along the beach of Topsail Island, the nesting season runs from mid-May through August.  So, beginning in May the magic starts at night.    The female turtle will come ashore and find a suitable spot to lay her eggs.  She wants them to safe and protected so she will find a nice dark and quiet spot and away from the shore line.  She will lay on average 110-120 eggs.  She then covers them up and goes back to sea. Most female turtles will lay 2-8 times in a season. When it is hatching time, the baby turtles will emerge together and race to the sea. This is not an easy task for these little ones. Weighing in at about two ounces, they must outrun the ghost crabs, shore birds, and wild and domestic animals looking for an easy snack. Once they make to the water their fight for survival continues as they hide from predators such as birds and fish.   It is estimated that only one in 1,000 survives the first year and only one in 10,000 survives to adulthood.  When the females reach adulthood, they will return to the beaches where they were hatched to lay their eggs.  The cycle then begins once again.