May marks the beginning of sea turtle nesting season in Florida.
Marine turtle species, or sea turtles, are identified by their shells and modified limbs, which are non-retractable flippers. Five species of sea turtles nesting in Florida include the loggerhead turtle, green turtle, Kemps Ridley and leatherback turtle.
Sea turtles range in size from the smallest — 75-100 pounds — to the largest, 1,300 pounds. They can live 40-60 years, but only one in 1,000 survives to adulthood. All Florida sea turtles are threatened or endangered through the federal Endangered Species Act.
Sea turtles spend their entire lives at sea, except for nesting season, when females return to a beach for a short period to lay eggs.
Hatchlings are born with the instinct to move toward the brightest horizon, which should lead them to the ocean, though artificial lighting frequently causes disorientation.
Keeping beaches turtle friendly
May through October, during sea turtle nesting season, it is important to keep beaches turtle friendly. For instance, keep lights off or use low wavelengths to prevent turtle disorientation; keep beaches clear of holes and recreation equipment.
If you encounter a sea turtle nesting, keep your distance, remain quiet, don’t use lights — including flashlights, flash photography and video — and don’t touch the turtle.
Any distraction can frighten the sea turtle and cause her to stop nesting or false crawl. If you see hatchlings on the beach, allow them to crawl to the water on their own, keep your distance, keep lights off and leave them in their nest.
Consider all the species that we share our beautiful beaches with, especially this time of year. In addition to sea turtles, we have nesting shorebirds, endangered beach mice and vitally important dune plant habitat.
If you find a disoriented sea turtle or hatchling, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Wildlife Alert Hotline, 1-888-404-FWCC.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 689-5850 for more information on marine science and natural resources.
•Panhandle Outdoors Live: May 8 tour of Walton County's Coastal Dune Lakes. Register: http://panhandleoutdoorslive2013.eventbrite.com/#.
•Annuities 101 webinar: 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. CDT May 16. Register: http://bit.ly/Annuities101.
•4-H Camp: June 10-14, for ages 8-12. Cost: $220 per person. Contact Haley Worley, 689-5850 or email@example.com. Registration packets are available at 3098 Airport Road, Crestview.
Brooke Saari is a Sea Grant Marine Science and Natural Resources agent at the Okaloosa County Extension office in Crestview.