Where the turtles go...Read Now
The most exciting time of the year for me is sea turtle nesting season which runs from May until October.
Just when the days get longer ninety percent of the sea turtle population seeks Florida's beaches to dig their nests and lay their eggs. Two months later, little hatchlings emerge through the sand and make their way to the ocean where they have to beat the survival rate of 1 to one thousand to make it to adulthood.
Nesting occurs all over Florida, however the beach with the highest number (up to 20 000) of many sea turtle species is the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge located in Melbourne. These graceful animals travel hundreds of miles from their feeding grounds back to their natal beach to start the cycle all over again. The offspring is sometimes born just within a few miles of where their mother hatched. This fact is simply amazing.
I plan my annual trips with the help of a lunar calendar as sea turtles seems to be more active during full moon and the beach is naturally illuminated, eliminating the need for any type of flashlight which should NOT be used, even red ones as this disrupts the behavior of sea turtles.
As soon as the sun sets, sea turtles will start to emerge from the surf. If you are walking along the beach, please keep your distance. Do not get close to them and, if possible, refrain from talking as they easily get spooked. This can result in a "false" crawl where the nesting female interrupts her process and heads back to the ocean without having laid her eggs. Please be considerate as these turtles had a very long journey, still have to make it up to the dunes, dig out a nest, lay their eggs, cover the nest and then crawl back into the sea. Interrupting this process is not humane in any way we look at it.
The Barrier Island Center has phenomenal programs such as guided turtle walks at night between June and July as well as hatchling releases in August. It is one of the best ways to "be with the turtles" and witness this yearly phenomenon while supporting a great organization that has a tremendous impact on the sea turtle conservation.
Here are some tips on how to help:
I will always remember the moment I saw "my" first loggerhead emerging from the ocean. Time stood still, the world disappeared and I hope it will do the same for you.
Linda Wilinski is a certified Master Naturalist and Springs Ambassador who sees herself as the bridge between humans and nature, raising awareness through her pictures.