Ask the Aquarium: What Happens to Sea Turtles During Hurricanes?
BY SHERRY WHITE
Special to The Pilot
Q: What happens to sea turtles during hurricanes?
A: If the turtles are adults or juveniles and are at sea during storms, they are seldom impacted. However, sea turtles nest on East Coast beaches during hurricane season, and damage to nests can be a different story.
In North Carolina, sea turtles can begin nesting as early as late April and continue into early September. Hurricane season runs June through November.
Storm tides can wash nests from beaches, inundate them with sea water, pile sand on top or wash sand away. Excessive sand deposited on nests makes it difficult for hatchlings to dig out. Eroded sand depletes the protective covering.
Heavy rain can also reduce the viability of eggs, and storm-ravaged nests are more susceptible to scavenging by birds, crabs, raccoons, foxes and even human tampering.
Of the five sea turtle species that travel the U.S. waters of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, the loggerhead is the most common. Adult loggerheads weigh between 200 and 300 pounds.
Loggerheads reach sexual maturity between 20-30 years of age. Females lay three to five nests every two to four years. Each nest contains 100 to 125 ping-pong size eggs, which hatch after an incubation of 50 to 90 days, with 60 days being the average.
Biologists theorize that sea turtles lay a large number of eggs to account for natural impacts such as storms and predators.
The state operates three public aquariums: one in Pine Knoll Shores, another at Fort Fisher and a third on Roanoke Island.
For more information about the Aquariums, visit www.ncaquariums.com, or call 800-832-FISH.
Sherry White works for the public affairs office of the N.C. Aquariums.
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