On summer nights, giant female loggerhead turtles haul themselves out of the ocean and up to the soft sand of Georgia’s beaches to lay their eggs. A few weeks later, their nests erupt as the tiny hatchlings break out of their shells and dig up through the sand, to skitter down the beach to the ocean.
In 2004, a low point, there were only 358 nests. This summer had more than seven times that.
It’s been another good year for the threatened sea turtles that nest here. The Southeast is one of the global hot spots for loggerhead turtles, and in recent years, their nesting numbers have been looking more promising.
Last summer, the researchers and volunteers who count every nest they can find in Georgia tallied a record-breaking 3,950 nests.
This year, with a total of 2,755, is still great news, said wildlife biologist Mark Dodd, who heads the Georgia Department of Natural Resources sea turtle program.
“The data suggests we’re in a recovery period, and that’s continuing,” he said.
Loggerhead sea turtle numbers got so low in the early 2000s that there was concern the species might disappear from Georgia.
Protecting nests from predators and changing shrimp nets so that adult turtles don’t drown in them have made a difference, Dodd said.
“We’re just seeing the results of things we did 30 or 40 years ago,” he said.
This year had extra challenges because of the coronavirus, Dodd said, but the people who monitor sea turtles in Georgia, including some who move to remote barrier islands for the summer so they can monitor and protect the nests, were able to keep things going.