Everything You Need To Know About Holden Beach Sea Turtles [2020 Update]

It’s Loggerhead Sea Turtle Nesting Season Here at Holden Beach

While summer doesn’t officially start until June, a certain guest starts checking in for oceanfront stays as early as May 1st. Each year, hundreds of loggerhead sea turtles come to the shores of Holden Beach and the other Brunswick Islands to lay their nests and eggs, which will hatch sometime before October 31st. And when you stay in one of our oceanfront Holden Beach rentals, you may have the opportunity to see a nest or even a turtle.

Holden Beach Sea Turtle Nesting Season

It’s Loggerhead Sea Turtle Nesting Season Here at Holden Beach
Turtle nest after it has been marked for safety.

Many of the local residents’ love turtle nesting season not only for the warm weather, but also because it means that they’ll start seeing their favorite quests roaming the beaches. Turtle nesting season in Holden Beach starts on May 1st and ends on October 31st each year and is the one of the most magical times to be on the North Carolina coast. Female sea turtles only leave the water to lay nests once every two or three years, and will lay anywhere from two to seven nests per season. Each nest will contain about 120 eggs, however many of them will not actually hatch.

How to Find Sea Turtle Nests on Holden Beach

The first thing that you should know about finding sea turtles and sea turtle nests on Holden Beach is that you should never approach a nest, turtle, or hatchling if you come across one. Try to keep a safe distance so that you don’t disturb the animal, and if it appears to be in distress please contact the Holden Beach Turtle Watch’s 24 hour hour emergency hotline at 910-754-0766.

Your best chance at finding a sea turtle nesting is to venture out onto the beach at night, just be sure to leave your flashlights off. Any light shining on the beach could disorient nesting turtles, and many will not lay eggs on a beach if there’s too much light pollution. Additionally, nesting loggerhead sea turtles rely on the light from the moon for navigation, and manmade light pollution can severely limit their ability to get around. If you’re staying in an oceanfront rental or are close to the beach, we ask that you turn off exterior lights at night, and do your best to keep curtains closed if lights are on inside. It may sound silly, but even the smallest amount of light can make or break sea turtle nesting season.

Holden Beach Turtle Patrol

Also known as the Holden Beach Turtle Watch program, the Turtle Patrol is a group of volunteers that help discover, monitor, and collect important data about the loggerheads that come to shore. They start making morning rounds up and down the beach starting May 1st, searching for the first of the nests. So if you happen to see someone riding a red ATV early in the morning, it’s likely the Holden Beach Turtle Patrol!

Once the Turtle Patrol has identified a nest site, they make sure that it is in a safe, ideal location. If it isn’t, then they will carefully reconstruct the nest exactly as it was made by the mother sea turtle in a better location, before safely transporting the eggs. Once the nest has been deemed safe, it is marked off and labeled for safety, and one egg is taken to have its DNA examined.

Even though we’re not members of the Turtle Patrol ourselves, we love to walk the beaches in search of these awesome creatures. In fact, we encourage all of our guests to be their own independent “turtle scout” while on vacation in Holden Beach. The best way to find hidden sea turtle nests is to look carefully for small tracks left behind by mother sea turtles. Pay careful attention to look out for two small sets of tracks, running in opposite directions to and from the sea as this is a telltale sign of loggerhead activity. Just remember to not get too close if you find one!

How You Can Help Protect Our Loggerhead Sea Turtles

The locals on Holden Beach take protecting our loggerhead sea turtles very seriously as they have made their home on our beautiful shore. To help us keep them safe and sound, here are a few rules to follow while you are vacationing to Holden Beach during turtle nesting season:

  • Please keep your distance from the turtles nest and the mothers who lay the eggs.
  • Don’t disturb the nests or the grating that are covering the nests. These grates help keep predators away from the eggs and hatchlings.
  • Don’t use your flashlight on your phone and don’t leave the outdoor lights on overnight at your oceanfront vacation rental. The turtles use the moonlight to help guide them to the ocean and any other lights will distract them from what they came to shore to complete.
  • Please clean up after your day at the beach and don’t leave any of your beach equipment on the beach overnight. This can prevent sea turtles and hatchlings from freely navigating the beach.
  • Please keep the beaches clean from any trash or plastic on the days you spend at the beach. We like to keep our beaches free of trash to help with the new hatchlings as much as we can.
  • If you see a mother who is in distress, injured or unmarked nests, please contact the Holden Beach Turtle Patrol at 910- 754-0766.
It’s Loggerhead Sea Turtle Nesting Season Here at Holden Beach

While there are many other things that you can do while on vacation to Holden Beach during the turtle nesting season, these are the most important ones we wanted to share. If you haven’t made your family vacation to Holden Beach yet, now is the time. We can’t wait to see you and your family on your next vacation to our beautiful Holden Beach this summer!

Holden Beach Sea Turtles Have Hatched

The Holden Beach turtle watch program has been in existence since 1989. Their sole responsibility is to monitor and protect the sea turtle population on Holden Beach, North Carolina. This nonprofit conservation organization is made up of all volunteers and operates under the NC Wildlife Resources Commission. There are presently 65 members. Members of the program were excited to announce the first nest of the year was laid on Tuesday, May 20, 2014 in Holden Beach. There were a total of 157 Loggerhead eggs and the nest was relocated. They watch for hatchlings beginning on or about July 9. The area is roped off with yellow tape to protect the nest so steer clear if you see it. The yellow color means the nest was laid in May. For the next 55-70 days of incubation, the nest will be monitored by program volunteers until hatching. At that time, Turtle Patrol members account for each hatchling or non-fertile egg and insure that the baby turtles make it safely into the ocean. This process is repeated with every nest.


holden beach turtles hatched

Did you know?

  • Sea Turtles predate dinosaurs and have existed for over 200 million years.
  • There are 8 species of Sea Turtles. 5 visit North Carolina: The Loggerhead, Hawksbill, Kemp’s Ridley, Green (green sea turtle) and Leatherback.
  • Mature Loggerhead Turtles weigh up to 400 pounds!
  • There are typically 100-125 eggs in each nest.
  • A fine of up to $100,000 and or 1 year in prison is the penalty for harassing a Sea Turtle or disturbing its nest.

How you can help

  • Turn off all lights that face the ocean before retiring at night including carports. If staying up late, close all blinds and draperies in oceanfront rooms between May 1 and October 31.
  • Fill in any large sand holes you dig before nightfall, they could trap a turtle, cause a night or early morning beach walker to fall and possibly break a leg or cause an accident to Turtle Patrol ATV riders in the early morning.
  • Call 910-754-0766 to report mother turtles laying nests, injured or stranded turtles, unattended hatchlings, disturbed nests or harassment of a sea turtle. Please use this number only for turtle emergencies.
  • Pick up any trash, especially plastic, from the beach. Do not release balloons on the beach. These items look like jellyfish to sea turtles.

To learn more about the Holden Beach turtle watch program visit their website and consider becoming a volunteer.