Man-made hazards threaten sea turtles

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Sea turtles are one of the Earth's most ancient creatures, and because they are an endangered species they need the help of humans to stay alive.

Last year there were 72 nests at Duval County beaches, but only one in 1,000 of those hatchlings survive.

But man-made hazards are threatening sea turtles in Jacksonville Beach. Deep tire tracks near dunes and large pits dug by beachgoers are raising concerns for turtle safety.

"They are great in the water, but in the sand they're not too quick and they encounter a 2-foot hole that could really impede their progress," said Bill McCullum, of Beaches Sea Turtle Patrol.

McCullum goes out every morning at sunrise to check the beach for sea turtles in need and to make sure there are no hazards.

"If they encounter one of these holes, it's like the Grand Canyon to them," he said. "Any rivet or divot or hole, it's even hard for me to walk in a little bit; yeah, it really impedes their progress. It's hard for the big turtle coming in and the little turtles going out."

Here are some ways to help:

  • Turn off or shield all beach front lighting after 9 p.m.
  • Use window coverings to block indoor lights that face the beach.
  • Do not use flashlights on the beach.
  • Do not leave toys, chairs or other items on the beach that can entrap or impede nesting turtles or hatchlings.
  • Fill in all holes and ruts in the sand.
  • Report potential nesting hazards.
  • If you see a nesting turtle, stay at least 25 yards behind it at all times.
  • If hatchlings are present, do not touch them or interfere with their progress to the ocean. It's against the law.

"We aren't against holes at all. I used to make them all the time," McCullum said. "What we are asking people to do is fill the holes back up before they leave."

To report a sea turtle emergency in Atlantic, Neptune or Jacksonville beaches, call Beaches Sea Turtle Patrol at 904-613-6081 or the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

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