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As the warm breeze of summer sweeps across the stunning beaches of South Walton and Northwest Florida, it heralds the beginning of a magical season—sea turtle nesting season. This remarkable period, extending through October, is a crucial time when our collective efforts can make a significant difference in ensuring the safety of sea turtles and their hatchlings.

In the coastal counties of Franklin, Gulf, Bay, Walton, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, and Escambia, loggerhead turtles grace our shores with their nesting activities. This distinct subpopulation, once a cause for concern due to declining numbers, showed promising signs in 2015 with 1,499 documented nests. While loggerheads are the most prevalent, our beaches also host green and leatherback turtles, albeit in smaller numbers.

“In order to keep sea turtles and our beaches and oceans healthy, it’s important for all of us to be good neighbors and do our part,” emphasizes Dr. Robbin Trindell, who leads the sea turtle management program at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

Five Fascinating Facts About Sea Turtles

  1. Nesting Season Duration: Sea turtle nesting season in Florida spans from May through October.
  2. Prolific Nesters: A female sea turtle can lay over 100 eggs in a single nest.
  3. Jellyfish Diet: Some juvenile and adult sea turtles feast on jellyfish.
  4. Abundant Loggerheads: Loggerheads are the most common sea turtle species nesting on Florida’s beaches.
  5. Shore Visits: While male sea turtles never return to shore after hatching, females come back to nest on the sandy beaches where they were born.

Dr. Robbin Trindell reminds us, “Florida beaches provide nesting habitat for loggerhead, green, and occasionally leatherback and Kemp’s ridley sea turtles. Let’s help them survive by keeping our beaches free from obstacles, ensuring safe passage for adults and hatchlings. Here are some essential tips to protect Florida’s threatened and endangered sea turtles.”

How You Can Help Protect Sea Turtles

1. Respect Nesting Areas

During the nesting season, maintain a respectful distance from nesting turtles, their nests, and hatchlings. In Northwest Florida, nests are often marked with yellow signs and tape, but not always. Avoid shining lights or taking photos of turtles and hatchlings, including cell phone photos.

2. Use Turtle-Friendly Lighting

Artificial lighting can disorient nesting females and hatchlings. Turn off or adjust lights along the beach to prevent them from heading towards land instead of the ocean. Use FWC-certified turtle-friendly lighting for outdoor lights, opting for low-wattage, long-wavelength red or amber lights. Keep lights low, shielded, and close curtains and blinds on beachfront windows and doors.

3. Clear the Beach at Night

Beach furniture left overnight can trap or confuse sea turtles. Ensure that chairs, umbrellas, and other items are removed at the end of the day. Fill in holes and level sand piles before nightfall to avoid obstructing the path of nesting turtles. Properly dispose of trash to prevent attracting predators to nests.

4. Opt for Turtle-Friendly Activities

Minimize beach driving as vehicles can crush nests and harm turtles. Avoid lighting bonfires, as the bright light can disorient hatchlings. Remember, it is illegal to disturb or harm sea turtles, their nests, eggs, and hatchlings.

The FWC is dedicated to conserving Florida’s sea turtles, coordinating nesting beach survey programs statewide. If you encounter a sick, injured, entangled, or dead sea turtle, report it to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline: 1-888-404-3922, #FWC or *FWC on a cell phone, or text Tip@MyFWC.com.

For more information about sea turtles and how you can help, visit South Walton Turtle Watch and FWC Sea Turtles.

Let’s all join hands to protect these magnificent creatures and ensure that our beautiful beaches remain a safe haven for sea turtles during this special season.