We may be limited in gathering along the shoreline right now but that doesn’t mean that the beaches in Franklin County are totally quiet. May 1 marks the beginning of sea turtle nesting season along Franklin County beaches.
Each summer, threatened sea turtles migrate to the sandy shorelines and beaches of St. George Island, Alligator Point and to the neighboring islands of Cape St. George, Dog Island and St. Vincent Island. The majority of turtle nesting on local beaches occurs between May 1st and October 31st. The turtles will usually lay their eggs at night with 50-150 baby turtles hatching after 45-60 days, usually at night.
May also heralds the season when local volunteer turtlers begin walking the beach in order to find, mark and protect turtle nests and when homeowners and visitors are educated about measures they can take to help nesting sea turtles such as turning off lights and clearing the beach of gear.
“May is a key month to remind everyone ways in which they can help sea turtles and also follow local ordinances and state guidelines,” says Janice Becker, Volunteer Coordinator with the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve. According to Becker, this is the time of year for residents and visitors to pay particular attention to having the proper sea turtle-friendly lighting on beachfront houses. “We often use the phrase – clean, dark, and flat – as an easy way to remember to take belongings off of the beach, have the proper lighting and pull shades/blinds, and fill in holes on the beach,” she said.
Turtle experts warn that holes dug on the beach, and furniture left overnight can disorient and trap turtle hatchlings, and can hinder the females from coming ashore to lay their eggs. When the beaches reopen, experts say it will be important to remove belongings and fill in any holes prior to leaving the beach.
Anyone interested in learning about sea turtle nesting can visit the St. George Island Volunteers Turtle social media page. The Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve expects to host weekly “turtle talks” later this summer either online or at the Reserve’s Eastpoint Visitor Center.