Momma Turtles

posted: June 11, 2020, 10:46 AM

For many years we all believed that the momma turtles came back to the same beach on which they were born to lay their eggs. We now know that they come back to an “area” but not always the exact beach. This “area” can be very large up to 300 miles wide area. For the past several years the Holden Beach Turtle Patrol has been part of a DNA study at the University of Georgia. This study has helped us learn more about the momma turtles and their activities.

Last year we had 105 nests on beach, this was a record year for us. The DNA studies showed that these nests were laid by 52 different females. This averaged just over two nests for each momma on our beach. The study showed that most of these mommas also went to other beaches. There was an average of 13 days between each nest. It’s also interesting to note that on one beach in SC there are three generations of female turtles.

Last year we had one turtle that really liked Holden Beach and laid all six of her nests on our beach and they were less than a mile apart. On the flip side of that, we had one momma that laid one nest on Holden, then went down to Cumberland Island, Georgia and then she went to the Northern Outer Banks for another nests. She likes to swim. Another momma visited five different beaches---four of then were in South Carolina and then she came to Holden.

Last year we relocated 39 of the 105 nests each of them had an average of 120 eggs. Already this year, the nests have had as many as 150 eggs each. Momma turtles can lay several nests each year and the number of eggs in each nests tends to go down as the season goes on. The DNA studies have shown that most mommas take a year or two off after laying eggs, but some do not.

After the momma turtle lays the eggs she goes back into ocean. She may come back to lay more nests on our beach or go to another beach to lay another nest. She does not come back to see the babies. “Mother Nature” and instinct tell the baby turtles what to do.

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