About 90% of all sea turtle nesting in the US takes place on the Florida beaches. At dawn, every day during the sea turtle season, marine specialists, sea turtle organizations, and volunteers flock to beaches up and down the Florida Atlantic coast in search of tracks made by female sea turtles coming ashore to nest. These tracks, which bear a resemblance to ATV tracks, come from the ocean and move up towards the dune line. These organizations mark and list all crawls and mark off the nests that are hopefully found at the end of these tracks.
These turtle species, loggerhead, green, and leatherback, regularly nest on Florida beaches. The majority of nests can be found in Brevard, Palm Beach, Martin, Indian Creek, and St. Lucie counties; however, nests can be found on almost any beach on Florida’s Atlantic coast.
We are lucky to live in such a beautiful state where these amazing animals are hatched, but that does not come without responsibility. Let’s all make sure we do our part in having a safe and successful nesting season by following these simple tips.
TIP 1 : Use turtle friendly lights on your beach front properties (Or no lights at all).
Turtles are easily disoriented. Lighting discourages them from nesting and can also cause the mothers to lead their hatchlings away from the ocean after birth. Click here to get more specifics on the proper lighting
TIP 2: Knock down any sand castles, smooth over lumped sand, and fill in any holes.
Every child’s worst nightmare has come true: Adults are knocking over sand castles. Unfortunately, these can end up being directly in the way of female’s path causing them to get turned around and not find their way back to the ocean. Also, holes can trap hatchlings, and even their mothers, who must lead them to the water.
TIP 3: Clean up any leftover food items and ensure you are using “critter resistant” trash cans.
Raccoons are one of the leading causes of sea turtle mortality on Florida’s shores. Leaving food outside can attract them as well as other critters looking for a late-night snack. Make sure you are cleaning up your beaches, as you should regularly do, and be sure your outdoor garbage cans are sealed properly.
TIP 4: Keep beach furniture at a safe distance from marked nests and store beach accessories off the shore overnight.
If you are lucky enough to have a nest by your property make sure all beach furniture is kept at least 5 feet away from it. Any beach accessories or furniture that can be easily moved off the beach completely should be. Man made objects can confuse these animals and even trap them on the beach.
TIP 5: Do no light fireworks on the beach.
The Fourth of July falls right in the middle of the sea turtle season, which proves a little tricky. With regular lights disorienting the turtles, you can just imagine what the fireworks do, and this is not even considering the noise they make. Celebrate your Independence Day somewhere inland and let the turtles nest safely.
TIP 6: Know who to contact in case of emergency.
Even following all the previous tips, it is possible for the turtles to lose their way or get stuck. They are naturally easily disoriented animals when on land. Do not try to handle these animals on your own, without having the proper licensing it is actually illegal under both state and federal law to touch sea turtles. Be sure you have security on your beach that knows protocol and is ensuring there is no one harassing the animals or disturbing their nests. If you or someone you know comes across person or persons doing this in Florida, contact Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and/or Florida Marine Patrol immediately. If you are in another state, please follow the link below to get the contact information for your local authorities.
To safely observe the nesting process there are sea turtle walk programs up and down the Florida coast. There are also organizations that take it stray or injured hatchlings and release them once they are strong enough to survive, some of these programs allow observers to watch the release process. We have listed a couple here, if none of these are close to your location a simple online search should give you plenty of local options. Please enjoy the beauty of the sea turtles safely so we can continue to enjoy these animals for years to come!
CONTACT INFORMATION FOR FLORIDA
FWC Wildlife Alert: 1-888-404-FWCC (3922)
Florida Marine Patrol: 1-800-DIAL-FMP (342-5367)
CONTACT INFORMATION FOR OTHER STATES
TURTLE WALK PROGRAMS IN SOUTH FLORIDA
Dania Beach: Dr. Von D. Mizell – Eula Johnson State Park
Fort Lauderdale: Museum of Discovery and Science
Boca Raton: Gumbo Limbo Nature Center
HATCHLING RELEASES IN SOUTH FLORIDA
Broward County Sea Turtle Conservation Program (BCSTCP) at Nova Southeastern University
Hollywood: Anne Kolb Nature Center at West Lake Park
Key Biscayne: Crandon Park Visitors’ and Nature Center