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1,200 Georgia Loggerhead Sea Turtle Nests Documented in 2005 

September 23, 2005

The uphill struggle for survival has just begun for thousands of tiny individuals from one of Georgia’s most fragile species, the loggerhead sea turtle. The 2005 loggerhead nesting season is drawing to a close, and biologists from the Georgia Department of Natural
Loggerhead Sea Turtle
Photo By North Carolina WRC ©

Resources, Wildlife Resources Division have recorded 1,219 nests on the state’s 13 major barrier islands.

This year’s total is significantly higher than the 2004 total of 368 nests on Georgia beaches, but is lower than the 2003 total of about 1,480. Yearly loggerhead nesting totals are highly variable, but the overall trend in Georgia shows a decline of about 1.5 percent annually over the last 30 years. The massive sea turtles, which can grow to more than 300 pounds, are listed as threatened in Georgia and the United States.

We are encouraged by the strong numbers of loggerhead nests this year, said WRD Wildlife Biologist Mark Dodd, who serves as the Georgia Sea Turtle Program Coordinator. The totals are certainly much better than last year, but we are still below where we need to be.

Listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) is Georgia’s primary nesting sea turtle. In 1994, the Georgia Loggerhead Recovery and Habitat Protection Plan was adopted to standardize nest management procedures for the state. The long-term recovery goal for the species is for loggerhead nests to reach an average of 2,000 nests per year over a 25-year period.

Female loggerheads come ashore to nest and lay their eggs from May through September, and the hatchlings dash to the sea approximately 60 days later. The vulnerable young turtles scramble into the surf and quickly swim for the open ocean, where fewer predators lurk. Adult female loggerheads do not nest every year, generally returning to lay eggs every second or third year. On average, about 120 eggs are laid per nest.

Georgia’s southernmost barrier island, Cumberland Island, had the most documented loggerhead nests this year at 230. St. Simons Island had the fewest with two nests. Georgia beaches host about 1.5 percent of the loggerhead nests in the United States annually, with Florida hosting the vast majority of U.S. nests.

Loggerheads are not the only rare sea turtles to come ashore on the Georgia coast. Biologists also recorded four leatherback nests, two green sea turtle nests and one Kemp’s Ridley nest. All three species are listed as threatened or endangered in the U.S.

Sea turtle eggs are an easy target for predators such as birds, raccoons and feral hogs. Extensive efforts to remove feral hogs from Ossabaw and Cumberland Islands and covering nests with protective screens have helped to reduce the predation of eggs in recent years.

Adult sea turtles face different dangers such as the threat of boat strikes or of drowning in shrimp nets. WRD and conservation groups have worked to address the fishery threat by enforcing regulations requiring shrimpers to use turtle excluder devices grids that fit across the opening of shrimp trawls to keep turtles from entering the nets.

Through the combined efforts of state and federal agencies, volunteers, researchers and concerned citizens, we’re working hard to ensure that the loggerhead will always have a place in Georgia’s natural heritage,” Dodd said.

The movements of 12 loggerheads that were tagged in Georgia earlier this year can be tracked online at as part of a WRD satellite telemetry research project. Those interested in supporting the conservation of the species have the option to “adopt” one of the tagged turtles online by making a donation. Georgians can also support the conservation and protection of the loggerhead sea turtle and its habitat by purchasing a wildlife license plate depicting a bald eagle and American flag for their vehicles, or by donating to the Give Wildlife a Chance State Income Tax Check-off.



Related Links & Resources:
Loggerhead Sea Turtle Articles
DNA Study Reveals Sea Turtle Lineage, Outlook
Small Alligators Not A Problem
Program Releases Two Rehabilitated Loggerhead Turtles

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