Thursday, May 15, 2008

First Loggerhead Sea Turtle Nest Found

Loggerhead turtles have returned to Georgia’s beaches. Members of the Georgia Sea Turtle Cooperative found the state’s first loggerhead nest of 2008 last week on Blackbeard Island, signaling the start of nesting season for the federally threatened species.

2008 also marks the 20th anniversary of the Sea Turtle Cooperative, a milestone for sea turtle conservation. Coordinated by the Wildlife Resources Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the group of volunteers, researchers and biologists from various agencies
monitor turtle nesting on Georgia beaches.

Loggerhead nesting numbers vary widely from year to year. The 2007 total of 689 loggerhead nests, down from 1,400 in 2006, was considered a below-average nesting year. The 2006 nest totals were the third highest since comprehensive surveys began in 1989, with 1,419 nests found in 1999 and 1,504 nests in 2003. The annual average in Georgia since 1989 has been roughly 1,045 nests.

Adult female loggerheads come ashore to dig nests and lay eggs from May through September. Their vulnerable hatchlings scramble to the sea approximately 60 days later, swimming for the open ocean, where fewer predators lurk.

Loggerheads do not nest every year. Generally they return to lay eggs - about 120 per nest - every second or third year.

Listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, the loggerhead (Caretta caretta) is Georgia’s primary nesting sea turtle. Adults can grow to more than 300 pounds.

Threats to the survival of loggerheads include commercial fisheries, development of barrier islands, and nest depredation by coyotes, raccoons and feral hogs. Wildlife Resources and conservation groups have worked to address the fishery threat by enforcing regulations that
require shrimpers to use turtle excluder devices - grids that fit across the opening of shrimp trawls to keep turtles from entering the nets.

Sales of Georgia’s nongame wildlife vehicle license plates - the bald eagle/U.S. flag and the hummingbird - support conservation projects such as sea turtle restoration. Wildlife Resources’ Nongame Conservation Section does not receive state funds, depending instead on federal
grants, donations and fundraisers such as nongame tag sales and the Give Wildlife a Chance state income tax checkoff.

Watch Georgia Outdoors: Seas Turtles or Georgia Outdoors: Georgia's Sea Creatures

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