Loggerhead Sea Turtle Nesting Starts in Ga.!

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Season’s First Loggerhead Nest Reported on Cumberland

At least one loggerhead sea turtle started the 2012 nesting season early.

The National Park Service reported Georgia’s first loggerhead nest Wednesday at Cumberland Island.

Sea Turtle Program Coordinator Mark Dodd of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources said loggerhead nesting in April is rare. Surveys done since 1989 show only one earlier record in Georgia – April 24, 2001, on Ossabaw Island. Nesting for the state’s primary sea turtle species usually begins in early May.

Yet Dodd, of DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section, is not predicting an early rush of loggerheads. “We generally expect the first nest around the first of May, but we have documented a handful of nests in the last part of April,” he said.

Georgia Sea Turtle Cooperative members met last week to prep for the season. The volunteers, researchers and government employees monitor barrier islands to protect and manage sea turtle nests. Members documented 1,992 loggerhead nests last year, a record for the federally listed species.

The more sobering news is this year’s spike in sea turtle strandings. Fifty turtles have been found dead or injured on the beach or strand in Georgia, double the highest total during the same period in the last five years. One factor is unseasonably warm water drawing sea turtles closer to shore where they’re more at risk from boat strikes and dredges used to maintain shipping channels.

Seven of the 13 turtles stranded last week had been hit by a boat. One was an adult female loggerhead, particularly critical to the species’ recovery.

Boaters should be on the lookout for sea turtles, and ready to slow down or steer clear. While common on the ocean side of barrier islands, sea turtles also frequent tidal waters.

Help conserve Georgia’s sea turtles and other nongame wildlife.