Turtle lays eggs in Fenwick Island, ‘rare’ for Delaware
A loggerhead sea turtle laid eggs on Fenwick Island’s beach on Sunday, a rare event for the state, said Rob Hossler, wildlife administrator for DNREC’s fish and wildlife division.
The Fenwick Island Police Department and Fenwick Island Beach Patrol initially responded after receiving a call from residents July 8 who were walking the beach and saw a turtle come ashore to lay eggs, said Tim Ferry, beach patrol captain. The loggerhead turtle is a federally listed species.
“The area was staked off,” he said.
Officials from the Fenwick Island Police Department said they received the call around 6 a.m. and the beach area is near James Street.
More: 7 sea turtles make waves in Ocean City after rehabilitation
Ferry said beach patrol and the police department alerted the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Division of Fish and Wildlife and the Marine Education, Research & Rehabilitation Institute who are handling the eggs and their safety.
“We’re just assisting in this process,” he said.
A sea turtle coming ashore and laying eggs on Delaware beaches is unusual, he said, as the last time it happened was 2011.
“It’s very rare,” Hossler said.
Hossler said people should expect to see more sea turtles laying eggs northern of their usual route. Primarily because of the population getting better and climate change causing warmer water further north.
DNREC approved the extraction and relocation of the eggs by MERR Institute from Fenwick Beach to Fenwick Beach State Park due to the upcoming beach replenishment later this month and high tides. The turtle laid the eggs on the lower side of the beach, and if high tides persisted it could hurt the eggs, Hossler said.
MERR extracted 78 eggs from the beach and placed them in Fenwick Island State Park Sunday evening.
Around 4:30 p.m. on July 9, the turtle’s nest was excavated from the beach to be moved its new location, said Suzanne Thurman, MERR executive director.
MERR volunteers watched over the nesting site on Sunday and assisted Thurman with the excavation of the nest, and installation of the new nest, she said via email.
“We were very happy to give these 78 eggs a chance to incubate and hopefully hatch,” Thurman said in an email. “The location where the mother laid her eggs was in the surf zone, so the eggs would not have survived there. In addition, the beach replenishment project would have buried the nest, so it wasn’t a safe spot.”
Thurman said the nesting turtle appeared to be missing her right rear flipper.
“Kind of heart warming to know that she had to work so extra hard to make her nest,” Thurman said.
Hossler said the hatch time of the eggs varies, primarily dictated by temperature. On average, he said sea turtle eggs hatch anywhere between 48 and 75 days.
Hossler said DNREC is working on implementing an excluder, a type of fencing that keeps predators out, helping protect the eggs from predators like foxes and raccoons. Now that the eggs have had human contact from the beach extraction, foxes and raccoons can become more interested in the eggs and dig up the new nest.
Hossler said DNREC was working on an adapted excluder to allow the eggs to hatch properly and the turtles to head out to the ocean without issue.
Until then, Thurman said MERR volunteers are keeping watch of the nest.
Hossler wants to remind visitors to the Fenwick Island State Park to not go looking for the eggs to keep human contact at a minimum. He said DNREC wants to see the eggs reach maximum success and believe in minimum intervention.
The next step for the turtles is to hatch and head out to the ocean.
“The turtles go on their way,” he said.