The Outer Banks is one of the northernmost ranges for sea turtle nesting.
The sex of a sea turtle is determined by the temperature of the nest during fetal maturation. Colder temperatures result in as many as 100% males and warmer temperatures as many as 100% females. As our climate changes and oceans warm, colder northern breeding grounds such as those covered by N.E.S.T. though not as prolific as those in the south are essential to providing sufficient numbers of male hatchlings to sustain and grow overall sea turtle populations.
Sea Turtles are air-breathing reptiles
Healthy sea turtles that visit the Outer Banks never come on shore – the only exception is female turtles ready to nest and lay eggs.
Nesting females go right back into the ocean as soon as their eggs are laid and have no contact with their offspring,
Sea turtles visit the Outer Banks from early to mid-summer to lay eggs. Those eggs hatch 50-80 days after they are laid. Sea turtle nests are 18-22 inches deep and on average hold 75 to 150 ping-pong ball sized eggs. Most adult sea turtles nest every 2-3 years, laying 3-4 clutches of eggs during a nesting season. (May-August)
Sea turtle hatchlings are about 2 inches long.
Scientists guestimate that only one sea turtle hatchling in 1,000 survive to sexual maturity which for Loggerheads is approximately 30 years old.
Weighing 250-400 pounds, adult Loggerheads can grow to more than 3 feet long. Adult Leatherbacks can reach the size of a VW bug!
There are five species of sea turtles that visit the Outer Banks.
All of these species are protected under the Endangered Species Act which makes it illegal to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, capture, or collect sea turtle eggs, hatchlings, adults, or any body parts. Violators can be prosecuted under Civil and Criminal laws and be assess heavy penalties (up to $25,000 fine and up to one year in jail.)
Depending on species sea turtles feed on mollusks, crabs, sponges, sea grasses and jellyfish.