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Loggerhead Turtles (Caretta caretta) are the most common nesting sea turtle in the Cape Lookout National Seashore.

Loggerheads are known to mate in Cape Lookout Bight. There are 4 common species of sea turtles in North Carolina coastal waters, Loggerhead, Caretta caretta; Leatherback, Dermochelys coriacea; Green, Chelonia mydas; and Kemps, Lepidochelys kempii.

Cape Lookout National Seashore
2005 Sea Turtle Monitoring Program

The CLNS Sea Turtle Monitoring Program is a program run by park biologists Jeff Cordes & Michael Rikard that began in 1976. Since 1984 Cape Lookout has conducted daytime monitoring to document strandings, protect nest sites, relocate nests in danger of being flooded and protect hatchlings. Many thanks to Jeff, Mike, other park staff and volunteers for all their hard work in helping to protect nesting sea turtles. The following is a condensed version of their 2004 report. View complete report (2005 Sea Turtle Report.pdf)

Nesting Results:

The first recorded nesting activity in 2005 was on May 16 and the last on August 20, for a 96 day nesting season. A total of 311 activities were documented of which there were 142 nests, 21 digs, and 148 crawls. Three sea turtle species nested in the park with a total of 136 loggerhead turtle nests, 5 leatherback turtle nests (+ 1 dig and 2 crawls) and 1 green turtle nest. One loggerhead female was tagged by Keith Rittmaster after a false crawl on July 24. The same female with tags PPZ507 and PPZ501 nested successfully five days later. The number of nests found in the park in 2005 was slightly above the annual average of 131 nests. The greatest concentration of nests in the park occurred between Mile 42 and 45 on SCB. Over one-third of all the nests on the island were in this three mile area south of the lighthouse. The leatherback nests on SCB were found at nine day intervals and were probably from a single female. The leatherback nesting on SB was likely a different female.

Hatching Results:

The last nest was excavated on November 1. The average clutch size was 111 eggs. It took an average of 60 days for nests to incubate. 53% of the counted eggs produced hatchlings that made it out of the nest (emergence success), the highest for any one nest being 99% and lowest 0%. A total of 12,423 eggs were counted. Thirty nests were washed away or dug up by raccoons with the numbers of eggs unknown. 6,569 of these eggs hatched and produced hatchlings that emerged or were released from the nest. Flooding during Hurricane Ophelia and several other storms had a great impact on the 2005 nesting season. A total of 81 nests were flooded by the ocean. Fifty four nests were washed away or failed to hatch due to flooding.

Predation and Human Disturbances:

In 2005, two nests lost eggs to ghost crabs. Ghost crab predation was recorded when eggshells were found on the surface. Raccoon predation occurred on nine nests, all on SCB. Three nests were lost before they could be protected. Five nests lost eggs when raccoons dug through their protective screens and one unprotected nest was dug up after it hatched. Three nests had roots in the egg chamber destroy eggs or trap hatchlings. Artificial lights attracting hatchlings was not known to be a problem. A light barricade was used successfully on a nest directly in front of the Long Point cabin area. Off-road vehicles disregarding beach closures threaten the survival of hatchlings. Forty five violations of vehicle closures for turtle nests were documented by resource management staff. These vehicles drove between posts and the ocean at low tides.

North Core Banks South Core Banks Shackleford Banks CALO Totals
Nests 37 88 17 142
Digs 4 13 4 21
Crawls 32 112 3 148
  • Nest - Nesting occurs when eggs have actually been laid.
  • Dig - A dig occurs when the turtle excavates a body pit or disturbs a large amount of sand but does not lay eggs.
  • Crawl - Crawls are defined as turtle tracks that are not associated with any type of digging activity by the turtle.
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