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loggergillnet.jpg - a loggerhead turtle caught in a gill net in the Lower Cape Fear River - released unharmedLoggerhead Sea Turtles in North Carolina


Caretta caretta

STATUS: Threatened

DESCRIPTION: The loggerhead is characterized by a large head with blunt jaws. The carapace and flippers are a reddish-brown color; the plastron is yellow. The carapace has five or more costals with the first touching the nuchal. There are three large inframarginal scutes on the bridges between the plastron and carapace. Adults grow to an average weight of about 2OO pounds, although some specimens may occasionally reach 1,OOO pounds. The species feeds on mollusks, crustaceans, fish, and other marine animals.

REPRODUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT: From laying to hatching, the United States nesting season runs from about May to November. Nesting takes place nocturnally and at 2- to 3-year intervals. Three or four clutches may be laid in a season at intervals of approximately 12 days. Clutch size averages around 115 eggs with incubation requiring 49 to 68 days, about 55 days being average. The hatchlings generally emerge at night. Limited information indicates that turtles reach sexual maturity in 12 to 3O years.

RANGE AND POPULATION LEVEL: United States nesting occurs on suitable beaches from North Carolina through Florida and to a lesser extent on islands off the Gulf states. The major United States nesting beaches are on the east coast of Florida between Cape Canaveral and Palm Beach.

HABITAT: The loggerhead is widely distributed within its range. It may be found hundreds of miles out to sea, as well as in inshore areas such as bays, lagoons, salt marshes, creeks, ship channels, and the mouths of large rivers. Coral reefs, rocky places, and ship wrecks are often used as feeding areas. Hatchlings have been found floating at sea in association with Sargassum rafts. Nesting occurs mainly on open beaches or along narrow bays having suitable soil, and it is often in association with other species of sea turtles. Loggerheads apparently migrate over long distances. Tagged specimens have been recaptured 1,2OO to 1,5OO miles from the point of release.

Species Distribution from known occurrences. Species may occur in similar habitats in other counties.
Green counties indicate observed within 20 years. Yellow counties indicate an obscure data reference to the species in the county. Red counties indicate observed more than 20 years. Yellow counties indicate an obscure data reference to the species in the county.ago.

Species distribution of the loggerhead turtle in NC

Species Location Map based on information provided by the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program.
For additional information regarding this Web page, contact David Rabon at david_rabon@fws.gov.

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