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Naval Air Station Oceana - Sea turtle patrols are underway on Dam Neck Annex beach. In the Virginia Beach area, sea turtle nesting season runs from May 15 to August 31. Each morning, staff members from Naval Air Station Oceana’s natural resources department have been surveying the beach for evidence of a nesting site.
Patrollers are on the lookout for a crawl, the tracks left in the sand by the sea turtles. Each sea turtle species has a unique and identifiable track pattern. Three different species of sea turtles have been confirmed to nest or attempt to nest on the shores of Dam Neck Annex: Loggerhead, Kemps
Ridley, and Green.
“Over the last ten years, on Dam Neck Annex we’ll see one to three turtle nests a year,” said Michael Wright, NAS Oceana’s natural resources manager. “In general where the water temperatures and air temperatures are warmer, that’s where you’ll see more nests, so in the contiguous USA, as you
go further south along the coast you’ll see more nesting activity.”
Once a sea turtle crawl is found and a nest is identified, natural resources staff will determine whether it is safe for the nest to be left in place or if it needs to be relocated. The nests will be fitted with monitoring sensors that measure temperature and moisture levels in the nest, which helps determine when the sea turtle hatchlings may emerge from the nest. A predator guard cage will be placed over the nest and signs will be posted to alert beachgoers to stay clear of the nesting site.
When it gets closer to a nest’s anticipated hatchling emergence, the nesting site will be visited twice daily. Natural resources staff and volunteers will also monitor the nest overnight to protect potential hatchlings from predators.
“We provide a conservation education and outreach opportunity for people to become ‘nest-sitters,’” Wright said. “These individuals take training to be able to help protect hatchling sea turtles
make their way to the ocean.”
All of the data collected during the nesting season contributes to sea turtle conservation efforts
for NAS Oceana and its partners.
“We are partnered with Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, State Military Reserve, United States
Fish & Wildlife Service, Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center, Virginia Department of Wildlife
Resources, universities, and other local citizens,” said Wright. “Proactive conservation for NAS Oceana
has been a win-win situation for the Navy, for sea turtle conservation, and for our partners.”
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