Discover the Famous Sea Turtles of Topsail Island
Every year Topsail Island is the favorite destination for thousands of visitors and families. Perhaps no families are as famous as our Sea Turtle visitors. Each year Topsail Island plays host to these wondrous creatures and some lucky visitors even get a chance to witness sea turtles on the beach. This week we take a quick look at the sea turtles of Topsail Island.
A Sea Turtle Kind of Life
Many folks know that sea turtles migrate across the ocean each year. They do this to return to their nesting grounds, and you guessed it, Topsail Island is one such destination. Each sea turtle returns to the exact same spot she was born to lay her eggs. How do they do this?
Sea Turtles use magnetic fields, moonlight, the tides, and the slope of the shore to find the perfect nesting spot. Unlike many turtles, Sea Turtles have front flippers. They don't have claws. These flippers make them excellent swimmers, especially in the open waters of the ocean. Once ashore their flippers become even more important.
Female Sea Turtles use their flippers to help them dig a nest. Once she lays her eggs, she returns to the sea. A sea turtle nest of eggs is called a clutch. Did you know each sea turtle can lay up to 100 eggs? Did you know only 1 of 1,000-10,000 eggs survive!
Fun Fact: Once in the ocean, the hatchlings will swim for 24-36 hours to reach the Gulf Stream and the nutrient-rich seaweed beds where they'll spend the next ten years.
Life as an egg.
Sea turtle eggs begin to hatch after approximately 60 days. One interesting fact about sea turtles is that their sex is determined by the temperature of the sand. Warm sand results in female Sea Turtles and cold sand results in male turtles. Eggs are very vulnerable to predators and particularly damage for humans. Mother's don't stick around to see the eggs hatch and therefore they are primarily unguarded and exposed to danger. Like their mother's, hatchlings use a combination of light, magnetic fields, wave action, and the slope of the beach to find their way to the surf.
Not all Sea Turtles are the same.
Several different species of sea turtles visit our beaches each year. Some are rare, and others are more common, all are majestic. Here is a little information to help you spot which turtles are visiting Topsail Island.
Loggerhead – You are most likely to see a Loggerhead with its egg-shaped shell. It is easy to pick out.
Green – Very common on our beaches especially as juveniles. Shell colors mainly consist of brown tones and appear marbled with sunburst rays in each scute.
Kemp’s Ridley – Common as juveniles to our area. This turtle has a rounded shaped shell of a dull grayish/green/brown.
Hawksbill – These are very rarely seen on Topsail Island. Their shell is yellowish brown with a marbled tortoise-shell pattern.
Leatherback – Leatherbacks are very rarely seen.
Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center
If you are interested in learning more about the Sea Turtles that visit Topsail Island, check out the folks at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center. With the mission of protecting and releasing sea turtles, this is a wonderful organization that we are so proud to have here on Topsail Island. You can visit the turtles all summer long.
Visiting Hours: Thursdays and Saturdays from 1-4 p.m. Summer tours begin Fri., June 1st from 12-4 p.m. Summer tours will be 12-4 p.m. on Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri & Sat. (closed Wed & Sun)
Help Protect Topsail Island's Sea Turtles
Protecting Topsail Island's sea turtles takes everyone's help. Locals and visitors alike can do things to ensure our sea turtles remain a thriving part of our community. We encourage visitors to familiarize yourselves with the list below. This list contains many of the things you can do that will help ensure our sea turtles come back to Topsail Island for generations to come.
Things you can do:
If you see a sea turtle nest, call the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center (910) 329-0222 or the local police department.
Always maintain a safe distance from any sea turtle or nest you come across, especially moving turtles that may be looking for a nesting site. Watch the sea turtles quietly and calmly. Leave turtle hatchlings on the beach and respect all nest markers.
Do not use artificial lights. Always turn off flashlights, cell phone screens, and any other light that could disrupt the sea turtles navigation. Please throw trash away.
Pick up any litter on the sand or in the water. Beach litter such as balloons and plastic bags can be ingested by sea turtles. This can be catastrophic to the turtles.
Fill in all holes on the beach at the end of the day as they may become traps for female turtles that generally nest on the beach at night.
Remove all beach furniture at the end of the day. Leaving obstacles on the sand for nesting or hatching sea turtles can cause them to become confused and result in death.
Dogs are naturally curious and may cause unintended harm to nesting females, sea turtle eggs, nests, and hatchlings. Always keep dogs on a leash when they are on the beach.
Still, haven't planned your Topsail Island beach vacation? Maybe you've been wanting to see our sea turtles for yourself. If so, we have the best selection of vacation homes to choose from on Topsail Island. Give one of our friendly reservationists a call at (910) 238-3400 or click the button below to start planning your vacation today.