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Dorian damage to sea turtle nests not as bad as was feared


Damage to sea turtle nests along Indian River County beaches from Hurricane Dorian's early September tidal surge was not as bad as first feared.

While many beachgoers were horrified to see exposed nests, broken eggshells and dead hatchlings scattered in the sand following Dorian's passage, Quintin Bergman – the county's sea turtle coordinator – said the storm destroyed only about 18 percent of turtle nests laid on 32963’s more than 22 miles of sandy beaches. 

And that percentage could go down if green turtles continue their brisk nesting pace through the season's official end Oct. 31, a pace that is steadily upping the overall number of nests for the year.

As of last Friday, the county's sea turtle team estimated 1,613 nests were lost to Dorian while 1,488 remained in the storm's wake. More than 5,400 were estimated to have hatched before Dorian's arrival. Total nests counted since the season began in April: 6,159 loggerheads; 2,366 green (47 since Dorian's departure); and 37 leatherbacks.

Bergman said it's been a banner season for the green turtles which are known to be late nesters on our beaches.

"It seems really, really bad seeing endangered species' eggs destroyed like this, but there's still a lot of hope," Bergman said.  "Though a heartbreaking sight to see, it is a part of nature."

Bergman pointed out that not every turtle nest laid on our beaches is marked with stakes and red caution tape. And not every nest will result in successful hatchlings – with or without Dorian. He said sea turtles have evolved strategies to deal with storms such as laying multiple nests during a season and digging them at varying distances from the water.