Turtle nesting season in Wrightsville Beach has officially come to an end. Volunteers recorded and evacuated three nests this season.
About 230 turtles hatched and made their way into the Atlantic Ocean from the three nests.
Nest No. 2 hatched on Sept. 4 and Nest No. 3 hatched two days later, with only a 50 percent success rate, on Sept. 6.
Wrightsville Beach Sea Turtle Project volunteers found one additional nest this year, but the number of nests is still lower than in past years.
Project coordinator Nancy Fahey said the number of nests has been low since the early 2000s.
“It’s been since then we have seen a lot fewer nests on Wrightsville Beach,” she said.
“It’s still not what I would like to see as far as numbers go. We used to be able to say with confidence that we could get eight to 10 per year.”
In 2005, WBSTP volunteers saw a spike in nests, with 12 nests found during the season.
“There was something that cued them,” Fahey said. “I think there is something that prompts the turtles to go to Figure Eight [Island] rather than Wrightsville Beach.”
Fahey said she was unsure why the number has not picked back up since 2005, but she does not think the decline comes from development or additional people or disturbances on the beach at night.
She said another spike will likely occur again, but she does not know when.
If volunteers are able to spot some patterns in coming years, they would have more concrete answers about why the turtles rotate between the two nesting destinations.
“I’m happy we had three,” Fahey said.
One egg from each nest was taken for a DNA sample.
Fahey said she has not received the results from the DNA survey yet.
In addition to the three nests that already yielded results, there are two diamondback terrapin nests left to hatch.
“Those two are still roped off,” Fahey said. “We’re not really sure what to expect with those guys.”
She said members are in unchartered territory with the terrapin nests, but they heard if the weather gets too cool the turtles could hibernate underground until spring or summer.
Volunteers did notice a decline in the number of stranded turtles in the area during the summer.
“We want to say that’s a good thing,” Fahey said.
She said she would like to think there were less negative interactions with turtles on the beach.
In the meantime, some of the turtles that previously made their way into the ocean could be found on shore or in shallow water.
Fahey said people who find turtles, dead or alive, should contact her at (910) 612-3047 or call the United States Coast Guard.
On Sunday, Oct. 7 at 4 p.m., volunteers will come together to celebrate the end of nesting season with a potluck at Wrightville Beach Park shelter No. 2.