Relocating Nests

While sea turtle eggs are incubating, they are vulnerable to many dangers.

On occasion, sea turtle nests need to be relocated. This could be because the eggs were laid too close to the water: if turtle eggs are often under water, they will not hatch. It could also be due to the location near a high traffic area. If many people walk on the nest, the eggs could be crushed.

Laws to protect nests

The actual relocation process can vary from state to state but many follow a similar protocol. In North Carolina, turtle groups must receive permission from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to relocate a nest. No one should relocate a nest except certified turtle organizations.

Measuring the original nest

When a sea turtle nest needs to be relocated, the scientists take great care to create a nest nearly identical to the original.

  • Many groups measure from the surface of the sand down to the top of the eggs. Then they measure the width of the nest.
  • The scientists will remove the eggs one at a time.
  • Many groups mark the top of the egg so they do not interfere with the development by placing the eggs in a different orientation.
  • The eggs are placed into a bucket or commercial egg cartons.
  • The scientists make sure they place the eggs in the order they were removed so they can be placed back in the same order.
  • When the bottom of the nest is reached, the scientists take another measurement.

Moving the nest

Once all of the relevant nest data is collected, the scientists will move to the new location.

  • They will then dig a nest that has the same measurements as the first nest.
  • They will then, carefully, replace the eggs into the nest.
  • They start with the eggs that came from the bottom and return them in the exact same order.
  • Then they will cover the nest with sand.
  • Finally they will mark the nest with stakes and a sign warning visitors away from the nest.

Then it’s a sixty day wait for the hatching to begin.

Digging out a nest (photo courtesy Bald Head Island Conservancy)