JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – May is the beginning of sea turtle nesting season on many beaches in the northeast Florida, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Beachfront property owners and beach visitors can help nesting turtles and hatchlings by turning off of shielding lights that are visible from the beach at night.
Nesting is also beginning on beaches in the Gulf coast, including northwest Florida, to the state's northeast Atlantic coast and from Miami-Dade south to the Keys. Nesting began earlier in March along the southeast Atlantic coast from Brevard County south to Broward County.
FWC said more loggerhead turtles nest in Florida than anywhere else in the continental United States. Nearly 97,000 loggerhead nests were counted statewide during the 2017 nesting season.
FWC made a list it considers the basics of being sea turtle-friendly:
- It’s a sea turtle night, turn off the light – After sundown, turn off any lights not necessary for human safety. Use long wavelength amber LED lamps for lights that must stay lit and shield lights so they are not visible from the beach. Remember to close shades or curtains.
- Sea turtles get lost in the light – On the beach at night, don’t take flash photos or use bright cellphones or flashlights.
- Sea turtles are protected and must be respected – Stay back and give sea turtles space if you see one on the beach at night. Don’t touch a nesting turtle because it may leave the beach without nesting if disturbed. Remember, it is illegal to harm or disturb nesting sea turtles, their nests, eggs or hatchlings.
- Clear the way at the end of the day – Beach furniture, canopies, boats and toys left behind on the sand may become obstacles that block nesting and hatchling turtles. Fill in any holes dug in the sand.
- Help hatchlings home by leaving them alone – Do not handle hatchlings crawling toward the water. Any interference or disturbance by people, such as getting too close or taking flash photos, increases the chances the hatchlings will get confused, go in the wrong direction and not reach the ocean quickly. That makes them vulnerable to dehydration, exhaustion and predators. As with all wildlife, watching from a distance is best.