Resources, Wildlife Resources Division have recorded 1,219 nests on the
state’s 13 major barrier islands.
This year’s total is significantly higher than the 2004 total of 368 nests
on Georgia beaches, but is lower than the 2003 total of about 1,480. Yearly
loggerhead nesting totals are highly variable, but the overall trend in
Georgia shows a decline of about 1.5 percent annually over the last 30
years. The massive sea turtles, which can grow to more than 300 pounds, are
listed as threatened in Georgia and the United States.
We are encouraged by the strong numbers of loggerhead nests this year, said
WRD Wildlife Biologist Mark Dodd, who serves as the Georgia Sea Turtle
Program Coordinator. The totals are certainly much better than last year,
but we are still below where we need to be.
Listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, the
loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) is Georgia’s primary nesting sea
turtle. In 1994, the Georgia Loggerhead Recovery and Habitat Protection
Plan was adopted to standardize nest management procedures for the state.
The long-term recovery goal for the species is for loggerhead nests to
reach an average of 2,000 nests per year over a 25-year period.
Female loggerheads come ashore to nest and lay their eggs from May through
September, and the hatchlings dash to the sea approximately 60 days later.
The vulnerable young turtles scramble into the surf and quickly swim for
the open ocean, where fewer predators lurk. Adult female loggerheads do not
nest every year, generally returning to lay eggs every second or third
year. On average, about 120 eggs are laid per nest.
Georgia’s southernmost barrier island, Cumberland Island, had the most
documented loggerhead nests this year at 230. St. Simons Island had the
fewest with two nests. Georgia beaches host about 1.5 percent of the
loggerhead nests in the United States annually, with Florida hosting the
vast majority of U.S. nests.
Loggerheads are not the only rare sea turtles to come ashore on the Georgia
coast. Biologists also recorded four leatherback nests, two green sea
turtle nests and one Kemp’s Ridley nest. All three species are listed as
threatened or endangered in the U.S.
Sea turtle eggs are an easy target for predators such as birds, raccoons
and feral hogs. Extensive efforts to remove feral hogs from Ossabaw and
Cumberland Islands and covering nests with protective screens have helped
to reduce the predation of eggs in recent years.
Adult sea turtles face different dangers such as the threat of boat strikes
or of drowning in shrimp nets. WRD and conservation groups have worked to
address the fishery threat by enforcing regulations requiring shrimpers to
use turtle excluder devices grids that fit across the opening of shrimp
trawls to keep turtles from entering the nets.
Through the combined efforts of state and federal agencies, volunteers,
researchers and concerned citizens, we’re working hard to ensure that the
loggerhead will always have a place in Georgia’s natural heritage,” Dodd
The movements of 12 loggerheads that were tagged in Georgia earlier this
year can be tracked online at
as part of a WRD satellite telemetry research project. Those interested in
supporting the conservation of the species have the option to “adopt” one
of the tagged turtles online by making a donation. Georgians can also
support the conservation and protection of the loggerhead sea turtle and
its habitat by purchasing a wildlife license plate depicting a bald eagle
and American flag for their vehicles, or by donating to the Give Wildlife a
Chance State Income Tax Check-off.
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