On a balmy night during the summer of 1994, a loggerhead sea turtle crawled ashore behind Hanover Seaside Club on Wrightsville Beach’s strand to deposit her precious clutch of eggs. The following morning, club member Jim Tyson recognized the turtle’s tracks in the sand and realized that without protection, the nest of eggs, buried underneath the sand, would likely be crushed or run over on the highly trafficked area of beach. Curious about what could be done to help protect Wrightsville Beach’s sea turtle nests, Jim engaged the interest of fellow club member Stephanie Carter.
Stephanie, WBSTP’s founder, began by calling state wildlife officials to find out what actions she could legally take to protect the nests of sea turtles, which are state and federally protected species. The coordinator of the state-wide sea turtle project, part of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, visited Wrightsville Beach to train Stephanie how to identify sea turtle nests.
Continuing her training, Stephanie visited Topsail Island, where she stayed with and was mentored by Jean Beasley, director of the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center. Stephanie shadowed Jean for several days, learning the process of recording valuable nest data, which is reported to the wildlife resources commission. Upon returning to Wrightsville Beach, Stephanie was ready to begin enlisting volunteers to help with daily beach monitoring, roping off nests, and monitoring nests during sea turtle nesting season.
In 2003, Stephanie moved to Tennessee and then-volunteer Nancy Fahey assumed her role as president and volunteer coordinator in 2004, growing the organization from approximately 25 active volunteers to more than 100. The Wrightsville Beach Sea Turtle Project obtained federal 501c(3) nonprofit status in 2004.
Today volunteers of the WBSTP monitor the length of Wrightsville Beach every morning during sea turtle nesting season, from May through the end of August, looking for sea turtle tracks. They rope off and monitor sea turtle nests to keep them protected until they reach the end of their incubation period, which takes approximately 60 days, and monitor nests nightly when they reach the end of their incubation period. Nancy also responds to stranding emergencies in Wrightsville Beach, transporting sick and injured adult sea turtles to the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Surf City.