Activities for your visit

Park Service seeks volunteers to help monitor turtle nests

This is an example of a cordoned-off turtle nest on Ocracoke beach for which the National Park Service is looking for volunteers to monitor. Photo: C. Leinbach

This is an example of a cordoned-off turtle nest on Ocracoke beach for which the National Park Service is looking for volunteers to monitor. Photo: C. Leinbach

The Cape Hatteras National Seashore is looking for volunteers to help babysit turtle nests on Ocracoke’s beach.

According to Kimberly Farr, a bio technician with NPS, there are 93 nests on the island and almost 300 along the entire Seashore, and turtles are still in their nesting phase.

“It’s the most nests in recent memory,” Farr said. “It’s been a crazy year.”

Last year, the Park Service modified the buffer zones for these nests on the beach, allowing vehicle traffic around them.

Prior to last year, each nest would be cordoned off down to the ocean, a measure that prohibits vehicles from driving in front of them.

That’s why beach goers will see lots of areas cordoned off in squares, which allows for driving in front of the nests.

But because of this, the Park Service now has to watch those nests that are close to hatching, or “boiling,” as the bio techs call it.

So, this year, there are not enough Park Service employees to watch over the nests and they are seeking volunteers to sit on the beach for a few hours each evening and keep an eye on nests.

The Ocracoke beach is closed to driving from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. every day during the summer season, and the Park Service is looking for volunteers to do this work the next several weeks from 5:15 to 9:15 p.m. each night—now until all the nests are hatched.

If cars drive in front of the nest areas during the time, the volunteers must then rake over the tire tracks so that if the nests do boil during the night while no one is on the beach, the baby turtles will be able to get to the water.

Depending on where the nests are located, volunteers might have to rake the area on front more than once.

“The volunteers make sure no one goes near the nest,” Farr said.

When the turtles hatch, volunteers are still needed for a few evenings afterwards to monitor if more hatchlings crawl out, she said.

At this point in the season, she said about a third of the 93 nests on Ocracoke need to be watched right now.

To help, volunteers must sign up in person at the NPS Visitors Center at the south end of the island any time during open hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. but before 4:30 p.m.

Volunteers aged 12 and up are needed, but youthful volunteers aged 12 to 17 will need parental consent.

Then they meet park rangers at the NPS campground parking lot where they receive training and their location assignments.  Bio technicians will drive volunteers to the various sites although some volunteers may be able to drive to where the sites are located.

The NPS Visitors Center phone number is 252-475-9717.