Sea Turtles are one of the oldest creatures on earth. They live their whole life in the sea and only come on shore to lay their eggs. We love them and are excited they have chosen our beaches as their nesting site during May-October! Here are simple tips for making your night beach walk fun and safe for you and the nesting sea turtles.
When you go out on the beach at night let your eyes adjust to the ambient light. You will be amazed at how much you can see without man-made lights. If you take a flashlight make sure it has infrared LED bulbs that emits long wavelengths 590-750nm that do not disturb the sea turtles.
If you see a female on the beach give her plenty of room to find a place to nest. Do not shine a light at her or take photos with a flash. Remain quiet and out of her sight. If disturbed she may abandon her nest and return to sea. Also, do not disturb the tracks she leaves. Our turtle volunteers use the tracks to locate the nest and protect it from predators, and to collect important data that helps us better understand the species.
After the female lays her eggs they incubate for about 50-65 days. The eggs hatch at night when it is cooler, and the hatchlings can make it to the water and avoid predators. Sea turtle hatchlings have many of predators. Ghost crabs, racoons, coyotes and birds see hatchlings as a delightful meal. Only 1 in 1,000 hatchlings make it to adulthood. Some scientists believe it’s more like 1 in 10,000 make it to adulthood.
Once out of the nest sea turtle hatchlings instinctively to move toward shore. If distracted by other lights on the beach the hatchlings can easily get disoriented and crawl toward a house or road. Remember, sea turtles are protected under federal law and any harassment or interference with them, their hatchlings or eggs, living or dead, is subject to stiff penalty. If you are lucky enough to witness a sea turtle on land, enjoy the experience from a distance and cherish the memory for life. For more information and regular updates check the Facebook page St. George Island Volunteers Turtlers. The Friends of the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve has TurtleSafe flashlights for sale. Call (850) 670-7700 or email JoshEaton@FloridaDEP.gov for more information. Or visit the TurtleSafe website to learn more. Click here for information on preventing lighting disorientation.