Our Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP) is currently caring for a rescued loggerhead sea turtle nest of 160 eggs and one live hatchling found on the north end of Assateague Island National Seashore.
Baby loggerhead turtle hatchling and egg
The nest, which had been incubating in the sand since the end of July, was excavated by MARP and staff from the National Park Service and Maryland Department of Natural Resources late last month before the arrival of high winds and waves from Hurricane Sandy.
Rescue staff examining eggs during the excavation
The area off Maryland’s eastern shore never has had a confirmed viable sea turtle nest until now. Our MARP team is working closely with various representatives from North Carolina that are experienced with sea turtle nest incubation and hatchlings, including North Carolina State Wildlife Resources Commission, North Carolina Aquarium, and NC State University, to determine the needs of the nest.
Turtle eggs being documented
The live turtle hatchling is swimming strongly and enjoying supervised deep dives to build endurance. The baby has become stronger and stronger every day and recently reached a milestone by enjoying its first overnight swim. The MARP team is closely monitoring its health while providing antibiotics as a precaution.
The baby turtle is enjoying supervised swims to build up its strength!
Loggerhead turtle hatchling
The turtle nest was found in sand that was approximately 66 degrees; low temperatures lessen the success rate of turtle nests. Following the arrival of the nest, our team has raised the temperature of the nest to 80 degrees. The eggs require time, moisture and heat, which the MARP team is providing at our off-site Animal Care Center. So far, there is no activity from the nest itself but we are monitoring it closely. According to North Carolina State Wildlife Resources Commission, the hatch success of loggerhead sea turtle nests in North Carolina is about 75%. Unfortunately, nests laid at higher latitudes have a decreased chance of hatch success, which is due to lower temperatures and increased incubation time.
The area where this turtle nest was found is much colder than the typical turtle nest.
The average incubation time for a loggerhead nest in warmer climates is 70 days. Due to the colder temperatures, nests in the Maryland area require more time, not hatching for more than 100 days. Last year, a nest was found in Delaware that did not hatch until day 109. Information from these nests is being collected and evaluated by the National Aquarium, Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the National Park Service, to aid in drafting sea turtle nesting guidelines for Maryland.
The Marine Animal Rescue Program team continues to care for the young hatchling at our off-site Animal Care Center
National Aquarium team members hope to rehabilitate the young turtle hatchling to a point where it is strong enough to be released. They plan to release it into warmer waters in conjunction with North Carolina State Wildlife Resources Commission and North Carolina Aquarium.
Stay tuned to hear more about this rescue here on our WATERblog!