*Updated May 2023
Each year Ocean Isle Beach has thousands of visitors and among those are some very special sea-going guests. Sea turtles return to OIB year after year. While they aren’t here for a vacation, we do roll out the red carpet for these majestic creatures. During the summer months, you’ll most likely see marked sea turtle nests on the beach since nesting season is at its peak from mid-May to mid-August. If you do, feel free to observe, but please don’t disturb the nests. In this blog, we have all the information you need to know about the sea turtles of Ocean Isle Beach. We hope this helps you to learn more about these incredible sea creatures and what to expect during your NC beach vacation, especially if it’s during sea turtle nesting season. Enjoy!
The Fascinating Life of a Sea Turtle
Sea turtles are migratory. Each year female sea turtles return to the spot where they were born to lay their eggs. Amazing, right?! Sea turtles use magnetic fields, the slope of the shore, and moonlight to find their way to the perfect nesting spot. Sea turtles have front flippers instead of claws, which makes them excellent swimmers.
Female sea turtles use their flippers to dig a nest and then lay her eggs, called a clutch. Each turtle can lay up to 100 eggs. Did you know only 1 of 1,000-10,000 eggs survive?
Eggs will hatch after about 60 days. The temperature of the sand determines the sex of the baby sea turtles. Warm sand results in female sea turtles and cold sand results in male turtles.
Like their mothers hatchlings use a combination of light, magnetic fields, wave action, and the slope of the beach to find their way to the surf. Once in the ocean, the hatchlings will swim for 24-36 hours to reach the Gulf Stream and the nutrient-rich seaweed beds where they’ll spend the next ten years.
Where to Learn More
Also, be sure tosave these 2023 dates for these weekly Turtle Talks that happen at the Tipsy Turtle Tiki Bar at the The Isles Beach Club. They are free and very informative!
Types of Sea Turtles You May Encounter on Ocean Isle Beach
Most common in our area (if you see a turtle on the beach most likely it is a Loggerhead). This species has an egg-shaped shell. Their skin is a tan/blonde hue. It has a proportionally large head.
Very rarely seen on Ocean Isle Beach. Their shell is yellowish brown with a marbled tortoise-shell pattern. Their scales overlap and appear ragged. The Hawksbill sea turtle’s head is slender with a bird-like beak.
Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles are the smallest sea turtle in the world. This fairly common species has a round shaped shell (length and width are similar). Their color tends to be a dull grayish/green/brown shell.
Commonly found in our area especially as juveniles. Their shells vary in browns, and appears marbled with sunburst rays in each scute. Scutes do not overlap. They have a creamy underside and have a flat face with serrated lower jaw.
Uncommon in our area and rarely seen nearshore. These are the largest sea turtles on earth. Leatherbacks prefer wide sandy beaches that are close to deep water, so most leatherback nests in NC have occurred near Cape Hatteras, Cape Lookout, or Cape Fear. Leatherbacks are an endangered species.
What You Can Do to Protect the Sea Turtles
Protecting these beautiful creatures takes all of our efforts. Each of us can do things to help ensure our sea turtles have a safe habitat to continue their cycle of life. We encourage all visitors to take a look at the list below of things to do and not to do while visiting Ocean Isle Beach. With your help, we can ensure the long-term survivability of these wonderful creatures.
- If you see a sea turtle nest. Call the Ocean Isle Beach Police (910) 579-4221 or Ocean Isle Beach Sea Turtle Protection Organization Hotline at (910) 880-8715.
- Keep a safe distance. Keep away from turtles on the beach, especially moving turtles that may be looking for a nesting site. To observe, sit quietly away from the turtle.
- Leave turtle hatchlings on the beach. Call NEST hotline for directions.
- Do not use artificial light sources. Turn off flashlights, cell phone screens, and all other ocean side lighting during hatching or nesting events.
- Respect all nest markers. Report disturbances to the NEST hotline.
- Throw trash away and pick up litter on the sand and in the water. Remove beach litter such as balloons and plastic bags as they may be mistaken for food in the ocean and ingested by sea turtles.
- Level the sand. Fill in all holes on the beach at the end of the day as they may become traps for female turtles that generally nest on the beach at night.
- Remove all beach furniture at the end of the day. Don’t leave any additional obstacles on the sand for nesting or hatching sea turtles.
- Keep pets on a leash and away from sea turtles and nests. Dogs are naturally curious and may cause unintended harm to nesting females, sea turtle eggs, nests, and hatchlings. Dogs are not permitted on the beach between the hours of 9am and 6pm from Memorial Day through Labor Day, including dogs on a leash.
We hope you’ve found this Ocean Isle Beach sea turtle information helpful. Thank you in advance for respecting our local wildlife during your beach vacation. OIB thanks you!