Now that it is hurricane season, STPS knows many of you are concerned about the nests, hatchlings and nesting adult turtles on our beaches.
This year’s sea turtle nesting season is already a success, and the storm season will not change that fact. Thousands of nests already have successfully emerged and those hatchlings are now in the ocean; after the storm, mama turtles will continue to nest on our beaches as they complete their nesting season.
Here’s what you should know for the safety of both you and our sea turtles:
- Please stay off the beaches when conditions are dangerous and comply with all mandatory beach closures.
- Please leave any exposed eggs and nests on the beach. You may cover an exposed nest with sand, but do not attempt to salvage eggs or move them to another site. Again, please do not collect eggs. Call the STPS hotline at 321-206-0646 for any concerns.
- Please do not search the wrack line for hatchling and posthatchling, or washback, turtles. STPS and other groups have authorized and trained individuals who will survey the beaches as needed.
- Please call the STPS sea turtle emergency hotline at 321-206-0646 or Florida FWC at 888-404-3922 if you find a sea turtle in need.
It’s important to know that sea turtles have been on the planet for more than 110 million years and were swimming in the oceans when dinosaurs roamed the land. To have survived this long, sea turtles and their nesting strategies must be well adapted to hurricanes and their effects.
Nesting sea turtles make several nests over the course of a season. A nesting loggerhead turtle will typically nest three to six times, about two weeks apart, and will choose different locations and different placements on the beach to ensure that at least some of her eggs will hatch.
While it is hard to see the results of erosion, overwash and inundation on sea turtle nests, please know these are natural occurrences that sea turtles are well adapted to overcome.
The biggest threats to sea turtles are human made ones, and STPS encourages you to act in meaningful ways to help sea turtles survive.
It’s Sea Turtle Nesting Season
Residents and visitors can help to make our area as turtle friendly as possible by remembering to keep beaches clean, flat, and dark from May 1 through Oct. 31. County ordinances prohibit visible lights of any type, including cellphones and flashlights, at night during this time. It is also important to remove beach chairs and other obstacles each night as well as to knock down sandcastles and fill in any holes that may block or trap sea turtles. Please remember sea turtles are a protected species and may not be disturbed or harassed.
Do not disturb sea turtles
Never approach or touch a nesting sea turtle. Keep lights off, stay back, and be quiet. If she is disturbed, she may return to the ocean without laying eggs, or may leave before covering her nest completely.
Hands off hatchlings
Allow hatchlings to crawl on their own to the ocean. Turtles imprint on the beach that they hatch on and picking them up could interfere with this natural process. Do not remove hatchlings or eggs from a nest.
Lights out for sea turtles
Brevard County has a Lights Out ordinance effective May 1 – October 31 that requires all lights visible from the beach to be either covered, blocked, moved, or turned off from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. This includes flashlights, cellphones, and red lights. Although sea turtles are less affected by red light, they do still see it.
Pick up beach chairs and umbrellas
Put away beach chairs, umbrellas, and any other obstacles to help avoid the potential risk of turtles getting stuck while on the beach. Larger turtles can easily get stuck underneath beach chairs or in the slats and become trapped.
Fill in holes
Before leaving the beach, fill in any holes. These pose a threat to both humans and sea turtles who may fall into them. Adult sea turtles as well as hatchlings can become trapped in a deep hole.
Knock down sandcastles
Sandcastles can keep hatchlings from reaching the ocean, and adults may expend extra energy going around these obstacles.
Leave only footprints
Properly dispose of all trash so that it doesn’t end up in the water. Debris on the beach can be an obstacle for nesting mothers as well as hatchlings.
Stay off the dunes and vegetation
Use only designated crossovers to access the beach. Staying off the dunes will protect the vegetation as well as shorebird nests and sea turtle nests.
Beach bonfires are not allowed during nesting season. A fire poses a serious risk to both incubating nests and hatchlings. The heat from a fire built on top of an incubating nest would destroy it, and hatchlings emerging and traveling toward the brightest light might be drawn to the fire. In addition, the bright light of a fire and people nearby may scare off nesting adult turtles.
Call for help
Know the local number for sea turtle emergencies. In Brevard County, call the Sea Turtle Preservation Society’s emergency response line at 321-206-0646. You can also call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission hotline at 888-404-3922 or on a mobile phone at *FWC or #FWC, depending on the provider.