Sea turtle tracks coming up the beach on Hatteras Island on Dec. 3, 2023, and zig-zagging through the sand, a bodypit or “fluffy” sand pile from the turtle covering her eggs on the bottom right, and then her final tracks returning to the ocean. (Courtesy National Park Service)

NC - Rare December sea turtle nest found on Hatteras Island — the latest ever recorded in N.C.

Park staff discovered the nest of a green sea turtle this weekend at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the latest sea turtle nest ever recorded in North Carolina.

National Park Service biologists found the nest on Hatteras Island in the Frisco area Sunday morning.

“This is a rare occurrence as it’s the latest laid sea turtle nest found at Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Not only that, but it’s also the latest nest ever recorded for the state of North Carolina!” the park service said in a social media post.

By looking at her crawl patterns, the turtle crawled erratically before deciding where to lay her eggs, the post said. “We aren’t the only ones that have been enjoying this mild weather in December!” the post said.

Outer Banks sea turtle nesting season runs from May through September, with turtles returning year after year to lay their eggs by digging nests into the sand. About two months later, the tiny turtles hatch out, scatter across the beach and head to the ocean.

The previous late nesting record for Cape Hatteras and the state was Oct. 31, 2020. Late nests typically don’t do well due to cool sand temperatures, according to wildlife experts.

Incubation temperatures below 80.6 degrees produce hatchlings with “decreased vigor, poor righting response times, slow crawl speeds and overall poorer swimming ability,” the OBX Network for Endangered Sea Turtles (N.E.S.T.) said on its website.

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