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Environment

Turtle Nests Take Big Hit From Hurricane Dorian

Turtle eggs
Amy Green, WMFE
Turtle eggs at Canova Beach, Brevard County, after Hurricane Dorian.

Hurricane Dorian’s high water washed away more than 8,000 sea turtle nests along part of Brevard County’s coast.  

University of Central Florida researchers with the Marine Turtle Research Group have been surveying the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Brevard County since the hurricane. 

The refuge stretches from southern Brevard County into Indian River County and is among the world’s most important nesting sites for threatened and endangered sea turtles. 

The researchers say Dorian’s storm surge washed away about 20% of the loggerhead nests for the season and 45% of the green turtle nests. 

But they don’t expect Dorian will doom any turtle species. 

“We were lucky that the storm kind of took a turn up the coast before it hit us,” said PhD candidate Katrina Phillips.

“Even though we lost thousands of nests, we still have thousands of nests that remain. So it was a big hit but it wasn’t overall a total loss.”

Phillips said the timing of the storm meant that green turtles were the worst affected. 

“The leatherbacks nest first and they were pretty much all hatched and done by the time the storm came. Most of the loggerhead nests had also hatched at the time. And then really the only ones that were out there in big numbers were the green turtle nests,” she said.

“But it’s interesting that the green turtles, since their nests are mostly out in September at the peak of hurricane season, they also tend to nest higher up in the dunes. So of the ones that were out there the green turtle nests did the best, made it through the storm the best.”

Green turtles were spotted laying eggs just days after the storm, and hatchlings have also been seen heading into the sea.