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Record Number Of Sea Turtle Nests Recorded At Cape Lookout

A recently hatched Loggerhead turtle crawls on the sand headed for the ocean
National Park Service

A record-breaking number of sea turtle nests have been recorded at Cape Lookout National Seashore this year, and more are expected in coming months. 

The previous record was set in 2016, said B.G. Horvat, chief of interpretation at Cape Lookout, when researchers confirmed 352 established nests.

"This year we have at least 470 nests that have been laid so far, so it's really smashing that old record we had," he said.

He noted that number will most likely continue to rise, as sea turtles lay eggs through September.

The majority of those nesting at Cape Lookout are loggerhead turtles, along with a few green sea turtles and other species.  Nearly all types of sea turtles are classified as vulnerable or endangered.

The dramatic uptick is not isolated to the North Carolina coast. Record-breaking numbers of nests are being reported along the Eastern Seaboard this summer. Wildlife experts think it could be the result of three decades of conservation efforts.

Horvot said more research is needed to confirm the theory, but it may be that protections for endangered sea turtles put in place nearly 30 years ago are now paying off, as those turtles have matured to the point where they are ready to lay eggs.

"One in a hundred usually lives, so it's really extraordinary if one is able to hatch, make it to the sea, and have thirty years to become mature and have that chance to nest themselves," he said. "It's quite an accomplishment and story of survival."

During portions of the summer and fall, portions of the beach along the Cape Lookout National Seashore will be closed to vehicles to accommodate hatching turtles and other wildlife. Nests could continue to hatch into November.

Elizabeth Friend grew up in North Carolina listening to public radio in the backseat of the family station wagon. She has been reporting and producing at WUNC since 2016, covering everything from Army history to armadillos. She's also the co-founder of the beloved summer event series Audio Under The Stars. In her spare time she enjoys exploring the outside world with her family, dabbling in esoteric crafts, and cheese.
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