SAVANNAH — Loggerhead sea turtles are busy laying eggs along the Georgia coast and experts say if the pace keeps up it could mean another record nesting season for the state.
So far volunteers have counted more than 1,300 loggerhead nests from Little Tybee Island to Cumberland Island since the nesting season began in May. That already beats the two-decade average in Georgia of 1,035 nests per year, the Savannah Morning News reported. And the nesting season runs through August.
“We could easily reach 2,000 nests,” said Mark Dodd, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources biologist who heads the state’s sea turtle recovery program.
Dodd said it’s possible Georgia may even break last year’s record count of 2,241 loggerhead nests. If that happened, 2013 would be the fourth record-setting year in a row.
Loggerhead sea turtles, which weigh up to 300 pounds, have been protected as a threatened species under federal law for 34 years. The turtles dig their nests on beaches from the Carolinas to Florida every summer. The small amount of coast in Georgia means it has one of the region’s smallest sea turtle nesting populations.
Another strong nesting season would further support the pronouncement Georgia wildlife officials made last year that the number of loggerhead sea turtles hatching on Georgia beaches is rebounding. It was the first time Dodd and his colleagues felt comfortable making the claim after 24 years of intensive efforts to help the loggerhead population recover.
On Wassaw Island, where the Caretta Research Project runs one of the longest continual sea turtle monitoring programs in the U.S., project director Kris Williams said nesting is already on a record pace. As of Monday the island had 147 nests this season, Williams said, compared to 121 nests for the same period during Wassaw Island’s record-setting year in 2011.