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Tuesday, August 30, 2011 - 8:00am

Irene Washes Away Ga. Turtle Nests

Hurricane Irene has washed away at least three dozen turtle nests from Georgia's coast.

But the losses are a small portion of a banner year for turtles.

Georgia tracks endangered loggerhead nests on the coast with nightly patrols.

On Friday and Saturday nights, the nest counters noticed lots of erosion and nothing but sand where they previously marked nests with stakes and covers.

Department of Natural Resources biologist Mark Dodd says, the number of sea turtle nests so far this year is about 2,000, a record high and much improved from the 400 nests noted seven years-ago.

"Given the large nesting numbers we had this year, it could have been much worse," Dodd says. "But the storm came late in the season and over 70% of our nests already had hatched out."

The nesting season is wrapping up with hatchlings expected into early October.

"We've lost approximately 35-40 nests," Dood says. "It might be as many as twice that when the final numbers come in. But in terms of the total nesting for the season, it's a relatively small proportion."

Barrier islands lost several feet of beach because of the high surf from Hurricane Irene.

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