BARKING SANDS — It was most likely a small, young green sea turtle that laid the nest that was discovered at Pacific Missile Range Facility on July 19.
That’s according to Don Heacock, state biologist with the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Aquatic Resources, who said the nest has a below-average clutch size.
According to Robert Purdy, public information officer for PMRF, Heacock was one of the people who excavated the nest over the weekend.
“(Excavation) resulted in 63 eggshells counted or collected from the nest,” Purdy said. “Unfortunately, one unhatched egg was also found, which will be sent to a lab for DNA analysis.”
He said no live turtles were found during excavation.
According to a news release from PMRF, tracks were discovered leading from the nest, which was located about a quarter of a mile south of Shenanigan’s All Hands Club, on the afternoon of July 20 and more tracks were found the following morning.
Security personnel had originally found the nest about a month earlier during a routine beach survey and the nest hatched at 57 days, just shy of the Hawaiian 60-day average.
While the eggs were incubating, the U.S. Department of Agriculture worked with Environmental Wildlife Technician, Rachel Herring to install a fence line around the nest.
Once it hatched, PMRF Installation Environmental Program Director John Nelson, and Rebecca Johnson, also with the PMRF Environmental Program, worked with Heacock to excavate the nest.
“Turtle hatchlings can remain trapped underground, unable to dig to the surface and biologists can collect information on the nest (by excavating),” Purdy said in the news release.
That information includes the number of hatchlings released and DNA samples to link to a certain female in the population.
According to Heacock, mature female turtles nest on average, every 2-4 years and one large female can lay as many as six clutches, spaced about two weeks apart. Each clutch can contain over 100 eggs and the keiki hatch from July through September.
According to the release from PMRF, sea turtles are seen frequently basking on the north side of PMRF, as well as in other areas around the base. It’s an ideal location for nesting turtles, the release said, because of the unpopulated beaches around the base and relatively low amount of nighttime activity.