Sea Turtle Nesting Season is here on the Gulf Coast of Venice! MOTE Aquarium has already reported activity on Casey Key prior to the actual season even beginning !
There are five types of sea turtles that nest from May 1 to Oct. 31 in Florida and all are protected by state statutes. Loggerhead, green, leatherback, Kemp’s Ridley and Hawksbill sea turtles all reside in our amazing state. The loggerhead sea turtle is the most common on local area beaches.
Wikipedia tells us that loggerhead sea turtles live to about 50 years of age, weigh more than 200 pounds, and are about three feet long. They live in oceans around the world – except where the water is really cold. There are more loggerheads than any other species of turtle in U.S. waters.
The mature nesting female hauls herself onto the beach, nearly always at night, and finds suitable sand in which to create a nest. Using her hind flippers, she digs a circular hole 16 to 20 inches deep. After the hole is dug, the female then starts filling the nest with her clutch of soft-shelled eggs. Depending on the species, a typical clutch may contain 50–350 eggs. After laying, she re-fills the nest with sand, re-sculpting and smoothing the surface, and then camouflaging the nest with vegetation until it is relatively undetectable visually. The whole process takes 30 to 60 minutes. She then returns to the ocean, leaving the eggs untended.
With sharp homing instincts, these turtles often travel to the beach where they were born to lay her eggs.
Sea turtle eggs hatch in about 60 days, and the babies dig their way up through the sand, only breaching the surface once the sun has set. At nightfall, the hatchlings make their way toward the ocean following the natural light of the moon. Because of this track of following natural light, it’s so important for the homes and businesses along the beach to not have any light facing the beach during nesting season, as the young turtles are very easily confused and led astray.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, a total of 7,793 loggerhead sea turtle nests were observed across 151.7 kilometers of beach in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee and Sarasota counties in 2018.
Thirty-seven green sea turtle nests were observed in Sarasota County last year alone!
To learn more about sea turtles, head to Mote Aquarium. Its sea turtle exhibit tells visitors about sea turtle traits, threats the creatures face, and how Mote helps protect the sea turtle population. It also includes information about Mote’s Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Hospital, which treats sick and injured turtles with the hope of returning them back to the wild. Daily presentations take place at 3 p.m.
Loggerheads are an endangered species, and disruption or removal of turtles or nests is strictly prohibited. Here are a few tips for you to help the conservation efforts here in Sarasota County:
- If you spot a nest or hatchlings, keep quiet and observe from a distance
- Be careful when boating in the in the area – sea turtles mate offshore before females come ashore to nest
- Turn off beach-facing outdoor lights at night for the season and close the drapes after dark so as not to disorient the hatchlings on their journey to the sea
- Keep the beach free of loungers, toys, furniture, trash, and obstacles. All of these things will disrupt the turtle paths.
We sure hope you don’t….But if do come upon an injured, sick, or stranded sea turtle in Sarasota County, contact Mote Marine Laboratory’s Stranding Investigations Program at 941-988-0212. If you find sea turtle hatchlings that aren’t on the beach or are headed away from the Gulf, call Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program at 941-388-4331 for instructions on how to help.