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Duval County Volunteers Save Sea Turtles One Nest At A Time

A 10-mile stretch of Duval County beach between the St. Johns River and St. Johns County is slated for renourishment this summer.  Sand lost to erosion will be replaced with sand dredged up from the ocean floor. 

The project has the Beaches Sea Turtle Patrolscrambling to find and relocate as many sea turtle nests as possible before the eggs get buried too deep.  

Tuesday morning on Neptune Beach, Sea Turtle Patrol volunteer Jan Hanson peeked into a fluorescent orange bucket on the back of a weathered-looking golf cart.

The bucket contained about 100 Loggerhead sea turtle eggs that had been removed from a single nest.

Hanson said the clutch of eggs was about to be re-nested a little farther north.

“If you go up to 19th street in Atlantic Beach,” she said, “it’s turtle town up there. We have 50-some nests along there, all fenced in.”

Credit Cyd Hoskinson / WJCT
Mort Henson carefully populates the new sea turtle nest one leathery little egg at a time.

Jan’s husband, Mort, has a hole waiting for the eggs near a line of sea oats above the high-tide mark. The 87-year-old says it’s about seven inches wide by 18 inches deep —or, as he explained, as wide as his hand and as deep as the distance from the tips of his fingers to “about 2 inches above my elbow.”

The eggs go into the nest one at a time. Then they’re carefully covered with sand and wire mesh and protected by a temporary enclosure of plastic fluorescent orange netting wrapped around four tall wooden stakes.

It’ll take about two months for the eggs to hatch. Then the tiny Loggerhead sea turtles will dig their way out of the nest and crawl across the beach to the water. 

The last time Duval County’s beaches were renourished was in 2011.  

Cyd Hoskinson began working at WJCT on Valentine’s Day 2011.