There are very few times each summer that the ranger staff or interns that work on Bear Island have to relocate a turtle nest. Per the guidelines set forth by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, there are only three reasons why volunteers should move a nest. They are:
- The nest is below the average high tide line where regular inundation will result in embryonic mortality.
- The nest is laid in an area known to be susceptible to erosion.
- The nest is laid under a sloughing escarpment and is subject to being buried too deeply.
Luckily for the sea turtles that nest on Bear Island, there are currently no areas of the island that are susceptible to erosion or have large escarpments, so the only time the staff would need to relocate a nest is if it is below the high tide line. So far this summer only one nest (nest #9, laid on July 5th) has required relocation. The relocation process is long and tedious. Excavation of the nest is done by hand. Extreme care must be taken to not rotate the eggs in any direction to avoid detaching the embryo from the egg wall. The eggs are removed from the original nest one-by-one and placed into rigid buckets. After the nest cavity is empty it is then measured (depth and width) and a new nest cavity (above the high tide line!) is created with those measurements. The eggs are then carefully placed into their new home.
Relocating the nest is not a decision that is made lightly. Interns and park rangers consult, usually in the middle of the night, about what would be best for the nest. On Bear Island, staff do their best to try to keep things as natural as possible. In the case of nest #9, the nest was laid wellbelow the high tide line and had already been washed over once before staff were able to move it. Hopefully this will be the one and only nest that needs to be relocated this summer!