BUXTON (AP) — A record number of sea turtle nests have been identified within the Cape Hatteras National Seashore this season.
So far 269 nests have been spotted, 15 more than a record set two years ago for that stretch of the Outer Banks, The Virginian-Pilotreported.
All but nine of the federal seashore’s nests belong to loggerheads, a threatened species in the U.S. The other nests are of green sea turtles, also listed as threatened.
The nesting season began in May, and females are still coming ashore to lay their eggs. Sea turtles nest through the summer along the coast as far north as Virginia, but most go to Florida.
A female digs a light-bulb-shaped hole about 2 feet deep with her flippers, deposits her eggs and covers them before going back to sea. The turtles hatch about 60 days later.
Across the North Carolina coast, 1,179 nests had been recorded as of Tuesday, short of 2013’s state record of 1,304.
Experts say they don’t know why there has been a recent surge in nests and whether it means loggerheads are recovering.
The National Park Service established beach driving rules three years ago to better protect the nests. Fishing regulations also have been altered in hopes of protecting turtles.