Blog Post By: Dalton Moore, Sea Turtle Intern
Occasionally, sea turtle nests are in need of relocation. A relocation occurs when a female sea turtle lays her eggs below the tidal line. If these eggs are not relocated, it may result in damaged eggs that experience severe washover. Another reason for relocation could also be due to high traffic areas on the beach. Lastly, If people walk on undocumented nests, this could cause severe damage to the clutch of eggs.
To avoid any of the situations that we just discussed, our staff has been permitted by the Department of Natural Resources in South Carolina to document and relocate nests if necessary. We establish where the egg chamber is within a nest and communicate with one another to determine if it is needed to be relocated. If this is the case, we will then place soft sand in our relocation bucket to allow a smooth bottom for the eggs. We then removed them from the egg chamber to the bucket. The eggs will then be moved without any rotation to ensure the developmental stage is not stunted whatsoever. The process is very tedious, but it is mandatory to have a successful hatch rate.
Approximately 120 eggs will be removed and placed into the relocation bucket. After the eggs are dislodged from the chamber, we place a soft towel and sand on top of the bucket to help cover the clutch. It is essential to avoid any significant amounts of sunlight directly on the eggs; this could damage their development. We then create an artificial egg chamber that is highly similar to the original nesting chamber. Ordinarily, the egg chamber will be 18-24 inches in length and 6 inches in diameter at the top. The diameter gradually increases to 12 inches as the cavity gets deeper and forms an hourglass shape. We then will put the eggs into the artificial chamber, making sure to be cautious and not rotate them whatsoever. Finally, we then will cover the eggs with soft sand and mark where the artificial hole. As you would with an in-situ nest, we screen the relocated area and put all required stakes around it.
We have data recorded from previous years that show how successfully relocated nests are compared to in-situ nests. For example, Edisto Beach State Park had a relocated percentage of 31% in 2021. The success rate of the relocated nest was similar to the in-situ nests, with a mean success rate of 81.6%. As of now, we have 81 nests where 39.5% have been relocated. We are optimistic with the proper training we have, and with the permission of the Department of Natural Resources, our success rates will be proven to be thriving!
Sea Turtle Biologist