It’s Turtle Time!

Although sea turtle nesting season started on May 1, the first nest was found on Longboat Key on April 30th according to Mote Marine Laboratory Reports. Scientists, interns and volunteers from Mote patrol the beaches from Longboat Key to Venice to document nests. The season runs until October 31.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is asking Florida beachgoers and residents, who live along the beach, to be careful and watch out for sea turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs. The nesting season in southwest Florida usually begins in May and goes thru October.

Florida is the place where more sea turtles nest than anywhere else in the U.S. All sea turtles are protected by both Florida and federal laws. It is illegal to touch or disturb nesting sea turtles, hatchlings or their nests.

There are five different types of turtles who nest on Florida shores, all of which are threatened or endangered. They are the green, leatherback, hawksbill, Kemp’s Ridley and the loggerhead. The most common that nest in Southwest Florida is the loggerhead.

The sea turtle crawls from the Gulf late at night and lays 75 to 150 eggs, buries them and then returns to the sea. About 50 to 60 days later hatchlings scramble from the nest and instinctively head toward the water. They then begin their journey to the Atlantic Ocean by crawling into mats of drifting algae called sargassum. They spend the first several years of their lives on these rafts. After a few years they move inshore to feeding grounds. At the age of 12-30, female adult loggerhead sea turtles return to the beach of their birth to lay their own nests. Only one in a thousand hatchlings survives to adulthood.

Please do not approach, touch or pick up nesting turtles or hatchlings. Don’t use flashlights or fishing lamps on the beach as the hatchlings rely on the bright light of the moon to guide them to the sea. Artificial lights lure them in the wrong direction often resulting in their deaths. Condo’s located on the beach, or in close proximity, should keep drapes closed at night. Beachgoers should not tamper with stakes marking turtle nests.

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