Sea turtle nests vandalized at Emerald IsleComments 3
EMERALD ISLE -- An Emerald Isle group that works to track and monitor sea turtle nests along the town’s beach strand says recent intrusions at nesting sites appear to be intentional acts rather than random accidents.
Jim Craig, one of the co-coordinators of the Emerald Isle Sea Turtle Protection Program, said they’ve seen more disturbances than usual at nesting sites this season; and the vandalism they’ve seen over the past several weeks has them asking for the public’s help in reporting any possible tampering of nesting sites.
“We’ve put out pleas to anyone will listen; we want people to be an extra set of eyes for us,” Craig said.
Sea turtles are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, and the 80 or so volunteers with the Emerald Isle Sea Turtle Protection Program patrol the town’s 12.5-miles beach strand from May 1 through the end of August to identify nests and monitor them through the time that they hatch.
All nest sites are roped off in a 10-foot-by-10-foot square and marked with red flagging. A large metal post includes the nest number and a sign indicating it’s a federally protected species.
Craig said they see a small number of problems every season but they are typically minor and often unintentional, such as damage from someone passing by in the dark or children playing and chasing after something that goes in the nest area.
But what they’ve seen recently has included stakes pulled up, flagging torn down and one of the large sign posts removed and found several blocks down the beach.
“We don’t know who, we don’t know why, we just know it has happened,” Craig said. “Every year we see a few things torn down -- maybe someone stumbles across a stake during the night -- but when poles are being pulled up and flagging is being taken down, this is not accidental anymore.”
Craig estimates that five or so nests have been disturbed in some fashion. At this point they don’t know if any walking or trampling over the nests caused any physical harm to the eggs yet to hatch.
“We’re trying hard to protect these sea turtles, and we don’t want anything to happen to the nests,” Craig said.
It is a federal crime to tamper with the nests, he said.
Along Emerald Isle’s beach strand, 22 loggerhead nests have been identified so far this year, which is the highest they’ve seen in 10 years, Craig said.
He said there’s still the potential for a few more nests before the season ends. They saw their first hatching on July 23.
With both nesting and hatching occurring at the same time, Craig said this is a particularly active time for sea turtles on the beach, with adults and hatchlings potentially in the area at the same time.
Anyone who sees suspicious activity around nesting sites should contact the Emerald Isle Police Department at 252-354-2021.