The rising moon is at first mistaken for a ship’s light on the horizon, but there is no mistaking the solitary 300-pound sea turtle perched unevenly on a sand dune. Using her flippers to fling dirt several feet backward, this loggerhead is “pitting”— digging a nest—on a protected beach at Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge on the central Atlantic Coast of Florida. Named for the renowned biologist who first alerted the world to the plight of sea turtles in the 1950s, and the only national wildlife refuge in the country designated specifically to protect sea turtles’ nesting habitat, this refuge attracts more nesting—and federally threatened—loggerheads than any other place in the Western Hemisphere. More endangered green sea turtles lay their eggs here than any other place in the United States, and, to a lesser degree, endangered leatherbacks also nest on these shores. In fact, these dunes lured nearly 19,000 nesting loggerheads last year, a recent record high. But these numbers are nowhere near historic levels, and the species—just like the green and leatherback—is still in trouble. Only about one in every 1,000 hatchlings lives to adulthood.
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