2014-07-01 / Community


Sea Turtle Nesting Season
By Susan L. Suarez
Friends of Lovers Key

Loggerhead nesting turtle tracks in the sand at Lovers Key State Park. 
Contributed Loggerhead nesting turtle tracks in the sand at Lovers Key State Park. Contributed There are seven distinct sea turtle species that have been identified in the world– and five of them live in Florida. The most common sea turtle found on the beaches of Lovers Key State Park and in Southwest Florida is the loggerhead sea turtle.

Sea turtle nesting season has begun (May 1st) and runs through October 31st once all the last nests have hatched. This time of year, in addition to observing marked turtle nests, beach goers can (carefully) enjoy sightings of recently hatched shorebirds, such as Wilson’s Plover.

A female loggerhead turtle does not reproduce until she is about 29 to 35 years old. She can nest several times during a single nesting season. She will lay hundreds of eggs in each, yet only about one percent of the hatchlings will survive the dangerous journey to adulthood.

One way residents and visitors can help is to spread the word that artificial lighting near beaches often deters sea turtles from nesting and confuses hatchlings as they look to head for the shining sea. People are asked to turn off any lights (including flashlights) near the beach to help provide excellent nesting beaches and help the hatchlings find their way to the water.

Green Sea Turtle hatchling leaves the nest for the gulf. 
Contributed Green Sea Turtle hatchling leaves the nest for the gulf. Contributed Almost all of the species of sea turtles are listed as Endangered Species. This is due to the constant destruction of their natural habitat as well as the waters they live in being polluted. They often face other dangers too including being poached, their eggs being harvested as a source of food, and getting caught up in fishing nets. There are many conservation efforts in place so hopefully we will begin to see their numbers increase.

Discover more about Lovers Key State Park. Visit www.floridastateparks.org/loverskey

Seven Species of Sea Turtles

1. The Green Sea Turtle is a fairly large species with a length of about five and a half feet and weighing up to 400 pounds.

2. The Leatherback Turtle is the largest of all species that live in the ocean.

3. The Loggerhead Sea Turtle has a head that is much bigger than any others out there, hence their name.

4. The Hawksbill Sea Turtle features a tapered head which ends in a sharp point resembling a bird’s beak, hence their name.

5. The Kemps Ridley Sea Turtle is one of the smallest species in the world. They weigh only about 100 pounds and they are from two and a half feet long to three feet long.

6. Olive Ridley Sea Turtle features a gray and green coloring as well as a heart shaped shell.

7. The Flatback Sea Turtle has a shell that is very flat on the top.

Next time you’re out enjoying the beach at Lovers Key, or any beach, please keep these few easy tips in mind to help conserve sea turtles:

IF YOU DIG IT, FILL IT IN: Both adult and hatchling sea turtles may become trapped inside holes causing undue stress and exhaustion.

KNOCK DOWN SAND CASTLES: They can create an obstruction which causes sea turtles to expend unnecessary energy as a nesting adult or hatchling trying to reach the sea.

DON’T LEAVE PLASTICS BEHIND: Plastics are very dangerous for turtles (plastic bags, bottles, inflatable toys/rafts, wrappers, baggies, etc.) are often mistaken for jellyfish, an important food source, by sea turtles. Make sure to pick the plastic up and either take it home with you or deposit it in the appropriate trash or recycle bin on your way off the beach.

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