For the first time in more than four years, a sea turtle has laid eggs on a Mississippi beach.
The exciting discovery of turtle footprints was spotted by a Harrison County beach crew working just east of the Pass Christian Harbor. Crew members called the stranding hotline at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport for assistance, which quickly dispatched a group of marine biologists to assess the area. The institute holds a permit with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to survey the beaches, mark, and monitor any nesting activities in Mississippi.
Those marine study experts confirmed the mama turtle’s tracks from the water to the nesting site, and then back out into the Mississippi Sound. If you walk that section of the beach, you’ll see where they’ve marked the area off with stakes and flagging tape to protect the incubating eggs. Everyone is asked to avoid that area.
Moby Solangi, president of the marine studies group said the eggs might belong to a loggerhead sea turtle or a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle.
Solangi added that the discovery is a good recovery indication after the turtle population was hurt by the 2010 oil spill and the 2019 opening of the Bonnet Carré Spillway.
“When turtle populations go down, it means the ecosystem that supports them is having difficulty,” Solangi said. “When animals start breeding, it means things have started to get better.”
If everything goes well, we could see baby turtles headed into the Mississippi waters in 50-60 days. Only then will we know the actual turtle species.
The discovery had scientists and city workers high-fiving since the last time a sea turtle laid a nest was in 2018.
Marine experts will monitor and collect data on the sea turtle nest for the next few months. Many factors will affect the survival of the nest and the number of turtle hatchlings that actually make the trek to the Gulf of Mexico, including the age of the mother turtle and environmental conditions. Any eggs that do not hatch will be evaluated and supply vital information to researchers.
Sea turtle nesting season in Mississippi runs from May 1 through October 31. Nests can be identified by a set of parallel tracks left by the female turtle.
If you spot a sea turtle nest, you are urged to call the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies stranding hotline at 1-888-SOS-DOLPHIN. And if you encounter a sea turtle while she is laying her eggs, please keep your distance. Scientists said any disturbance could interrupt the nesting process.
* Photo courtesy of brtiannica.com