As our weather gets warmer, sea turtles return to Florida’s shores, digging their nests. Loggerhead, green, and leatherback turtles are the most common sea turtles you’ll see on Florida’s beaches, with hawksbill and Kemp’s ridley not as well represented.
Our beaches are essential for sea turtle nesting. More than 90% of the turtle nests in the United States are in Florida. Only the Big Bend/Nature Coast region – north of Tampa to south of Tallahassee – and the mangrove maze of the Ten Thousand Islands hold no interest for sea turtles. There just aren’t enough beaches.
Summer is the best time for beach walking, so it’s essential that you watch your step, walk softly, and treat the beaches with care. If your family is playing on the beach during the day, practice Leave No Trace. Let the kids mow down the sand castles and fill the moats to create a blank slate for turtle activity.
Nesting turtles can be scared off by sounds, lights, and motion, and may not return to lay their eggs. Avoid using flashlights on the beach, as lights disrupt turtle activity, both nesting and hatching. And always walk around nests, not across them. If you spot an unmarked nest, be sure to let FWC know about it.
All five species of sea turtles in Florida are either threatened or endangered. Just this weekend, five nesting turtles were injured – and one, of the rarest of species, the Kemp’s ridley, had to be put to sleep – because of a a collision of human and wildlife activities.
If you see a sea turtle laying eggs – or observe one in distress, such as caught in a monofiliment line while swimming – call the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission at 1-800-404-FWCC so they, or one of the many volunteers that work with them, can mark the nest or help the turtle out.