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August 21, 2012

73 Kemp’s ridley sea turtles hatch and head for the Ocean

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By Sarah Hutchins The Virginian-Pilot ©

VIRGINIA BEACH

For the past month, volunteers sat near a nest of the endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle and waited for a sign.

The sand over the nest was a timer, and on the evening of Aug. 14, it went off. It began to funnel in. Then it “boiled.”

At least 73 turtles – each 2 or 3 inches long – crawled out of the nest at the Dam Neck Annex to Oceana Naval Air Station and made their way to the water, said Michael Wright, a civilian natural resources specialist with the Navy.

Officials were still checking the nest Friday for live turtles or unhatched eggs, she said.

Beach campers discovered the nest in June. Biologists said it was the first time the reptile had crawled ashore in Virginia. The rare turtle almost always nests around the Gulf of Mexico.

Officials protected the nest with a cage, police tape and watchful eyes.

While just 1 or 2 percent of hatchlings normally survive to adulthood, Wright said all 73 Beach babies made it to the water unharmed.

“They were very active little devils,” she said.

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