Beach season is almost here, and that also brings sea turtle nesting season.
Sea turtles begin nesting in Florida in March, but on the Emerald Coast, the season spans May through October. Five species of sea turtles nest in Florida; four of them — loggerhead, green, kemps ridley and leatherbacks — have nested on Northwest Florida beaches.
The loggerhead, the most common sea turtle found in Florida, typically lays four to seven nests every two or more years. Each clutch contains around 100 eggs, incubating in the sand about 60 days. These numbers can shift depending on the season, climate and beach conditions.
The numbers of eggs and nests can be higher for green sea turtles and similar or lower for leatherbacks.
Hatchlings are born with the instinct to move toward the brightest horizon, which should lead them to the ocean, so artificial lighting frequently causes disorientations.
All year-round, it is important to keep our beaches wildlife friendly. Here are some ways to do this:
•Keep lights off, close drapes at night, and use low-wavelength bulbs and wildlife-friendly fixtures. This prevents disorientation for adult nesting turtles and hatchlings.
•Do not use flashlights or flash photography on the beach.
•Keep beaches clear of holes and remove recreation equipment from beaches at the end of each day.
•Leave sea turtles, their nests and hatchlings alone.
•If you encounter a sea turtle mother nesting, keep your distance, remain quiet and don’t touch the turtle. Any distraction, whether from flashlights, flash photography or light-aided video, can frighten the sea turtle and cause her to false crawl or stop nesting.
•If you see hatchlings, allow them to crawl to the water on their own.
Remember all the species that we share our beautiful beaches with, including nesting shorebirds, endangered beach mice and vitally important dune plant habitat.
If you find a disoriented sea turtle or hatchling, or see someone disturbing sea turtles or shorebirds, please call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Wildlife Alert Hotline, 1-888-404-FWCC (3922).
Brooke Saari is an agent at the University of Florida's Extension office in Crestview. Call her at 689-5850 for more information on marine science and natural resources information.