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Sea turtle nest in Delaware and places north pique interest

Loggerhead turtle hatchling on Fenwick Island.

A recent loggerhead sea turtle’s decision to nest in Delaware has researchers wondering if it’s a singular event or part of an emerging trend.

A loggerhead sea turtle laid the first known nest in Delaware since 1973 at Fenwick Island back in July. Of 78 eggs, 49 successfully hatched.

Suzanne Thurman, executive director of the Marine Education, Research and Rehabilitation Institute (MERR), said it's too early to tell if nesting patterns are shifting. But signs of a possible trend include a successful Kemp’s ridley sea turtle nest in New York State this year and last year’s successful loggerhead nest at Assateague Island in Maryland.

“It is still considered unusual," she said. "I mean certainly for most of the decades that I’ve been doing this work, we would tell people that asked about nesting that Delaware was too far north.”

Delaware's nest got an assist from state wildlife workers and MERR volunteers. Thurman said volunteers were able to move the nest above high tide and out of the way of a beach replenishment project. They also helped fence off the nest.

“Certainly those eggs would have been delicious to a fox or a raccoon or crows or any of other potential predators that would be there in that beach area,” she said.

A news release from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources said images captured from a remote camera indicated that many of the hatchlings emerged from the nest late one night and made their way to the ocean in September. The rest of the hatchlings emerged from the nest over a number of days around that same time period last month.

The loggerhead sea turtle is a federally-listed threatened species and a state-listed endangered species in Delaware.

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