The endangered loggerhead sea turtle has finally bred successfully on Maryland shores.
The National Park Service announced late last week that about 100 baby loggerhead sea turtles recently hatched and swam out into the open Atlantic. This wasn’t the first batch to attempt the feat, but they were the first to do it successfully, officials say.
“We are thrilled with this outcome,” said Bill Hulslander, chief of resource management for Assateague Island National Seashore, in a statement. “This event underscores the increasing importance of undeveloped beaches along Assateague Island to sea turtles and other federally threatened and endangered species.”
Woo-hoo! These turtles are part of the first confirmed sea turtle nest hatch here at the national seashore! Safe travels little ones! pic.twitter.com/92UgaZQXGu
— Assateague Island NS (@AssateagueNPS) September 29, 2017
As he noted, the loggerheads are an endangered species and are therefore protected by federal law. Every summer, NPS resource management staff check around the island for sea turtle nesting sites. If they find any, they put up enclosures and fencing to ward off humans who could mess with their breeding.
Loggerheads typically mate from late March to early June, and hopeful turtle moms lay their eggs between late April and early September, according to NOAA Fisheries. The eggs take about two months to hatch, can happen as late as mid-November.
The successful hatchings on Assateague’s National Seashore – a roughly 20-mile stretch of coastline managed by the federal government – came as a surprise, since loggerheads typically only nest in the United States between Florida and North Carolina, and rarely above Virginia.
The average loggerhead sea turtle lives 50 or more years and weighs upwards of 253 pounds, per Nat Geo. Just for reference, its local cousin, Maryland’s state-honored diamondback terrapin, typically clocks in at less than a pound.
NPS officials said no more turtle nests are expected to hatch this year, though they’ll keep their eyes out for a repeat success next summer.