Loggerhead turtle excavation on Ocracoke, Sept. 18, 2017. Photo: P. Vankevich

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Cape Hatteras National Seashore is offering park visitors an opportunity to observe excavations of recently hatched sea turtle nests during the months of August and September. An “excavation” is the process completed by biologists to document what remains in the nest after a natural hatch has occurred.

Each spring and summer female sea turtles–loggerhead, green, and occasional leatherback–make a brief trip to the shores of Cape Hatteras National Seashore to nest. Approximately two months later, under the cover of darkness, up to 150 hatchlings emerge from each deep sandy nest in a mad dash across the beach to reach the Atlantic Ocean.
During an excavation, the biologists will dig up the nest, count empty eggshells, and collect unhatched eggs for research. Live and dead hatchlings are occasionally found during these excavations.

While the biologists perform their examination of the nest, a park ranger will present a program on sea turtles and share what the biologists have found.

Loggerhead turtle excavation on Ocracoke, Sept. 18, 2017.

Nest excavations are an important way for the National Park Service to collect valuable data on sea turtle hatch and emergence success rates. This data is added to the turtle nesting databases for the seashore and the State of North Carolina.

Persons interested in finding out when and where an excavation will take place can call the excavation program hotline at (252) 475-9629–the first excavations of the season will likely take place in early August.

Due to the unpredictability of sea turtle hatchings, notice of these excavations programs will usually occur only one day in advance, so check the hotline often.

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