North Carolina

Drunks and pier lights may have ‘doomed’ 112 baby sea turtles, NC group says

Types of sea turtles that nest in South Carolina

There are four types of sea turtles that are known to nest in our state: the loggerhead, the green, the leatherback and the Kemp's ridley.
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There are four types of sea turtles that are known to nest in our state: the loggerhead, the green, the leatherback and the Kemp's ridley.

Dozens of newborn sea turtles were “doomed” when lights drew them away from the ocean in North Carolina, a group says.

Volunteers found the nest of more than 100 loggerhead eggs on Wrightsville Beach and made a trench to help lead the babies toward the ocean, Lumina News reports.

But when several of the turtles hatched earlier this month, they walked through the darkness and toward non-natural lighting, according to Nancy Fahey, permit holder and volunteer coordinator for the Wrightsville Beach Sea Turtle Project.

“Without some kind of shield on the pier lights, the hatchlings were doomed,” she said in an email obtained by McClatchy newsgroup.

Photos show disoriented turtle tracks in the sand near Johnnie Mercers Fishing Pier.

Some of the hatchlings were probably eaten by crabs and birds, Fahey said.

A pier worker saw drunk people “running around picking up the turtles,” and other babies got caught in pier fencing, according to the Wrightsville Beach Sea Turtle Project.

The group says it’s likely none of the 112 turtles got to the water.

“Losing that many is really disheartening,” volunteer Janice McCarthy told WECT. “They have a lot of predators in the ocean so the survival rate is not great.”

Gabe Legere, a worker at Johnnie Mercers Fishing Pier, thinks “light pollution is a problem” but says the pier has to be illuminated for safety reasons, according to the station.

Loggerheads are a ”threatened” species in North Carolina, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says.

Wrightsville Beach is about 6 miles east of Wilmington.

2019 has been a boom year for sea turtle nesting on the southeast Atlantic coast, and Topsail Island has seen its share with 172 nests this season. Watch as volunteers with the Topsail Island Sea Turtle Patrol release hatchlings into the ocean.

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