Sea turtles lay eggs in nests on Florida beaches beginning in the spring and throughout the summer, and now the baby turtles are hatching! The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) asks the public to help these tiny turtles stay safe with the following tips.
During sea turtle nesting season (March 1-Oct. 31), it is important to keep your distance from sea turtles and their nests on the beach. Sea turtles are protected, so you should allow hatchlings to crawl toward the ocean on their own. Any interference or disturbance, including getting too close, can cause hatchlings to become confused and lose their way. The trek to the water from the nest is part of the process that helps them orient themselves to their surroundings and for females to remember their home beach.
Bright lights from buildings, cellphones or cameras can cause them to become disoriented, leading the hatchlings to stray away from the shoreline where they need to swim and start their life. If they are unable to reach the ocean quickly, they can become dehydrated and exhausted, making them an easy meal for predators.
“Interfering with a sea turtle hatchling’s trek to the ocean can have fatal consequences,” said FWC sea turtle biologist Dr. Robbin Trindell. “It’s very important to leave them undisturbed. By keeping beaches dark, beachfront buildings dark and giving sea turtles space, we can make sure that our children and grandchildren can also enjoy watching them make this amazing journey.”
Did you know you can make a difference for Florida’s sea turtles? Follow these tips and share them with your community:
• Keep beaches dark. 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 at night.
• No flash photos. On the beach at night, don’t take flash photos or use bright cellphones or flashlights. This can cause turtles to become disoriented and crawl away from the ocean, putting them at risk.
• Remember, sea turtles are protected by law. Keep your distance and give sea turtles space if you see one on the beach. Never touch a nesting turtle because it might leave the beach without nesting if disturbed.
• Clear the way at the end of the day. Beach furniture, boats, toys and trash left behind on the sand can become obstacles that block crawling sea turtles.
• Fill in any holes dug in the sand. Holes can trap turtles and they also pose a safety risk to humans.
Please report sea turtles that are sick, injured, dead, entangled or are in danger to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline: 888-404-3922 so trained responders can help.
Learn more about Florida’s sea turtles at MyFWC.com/SeaTurtle. Show your support for sea turtle conservation with a specialty license plate or sea turtle decal. The funds from the sale of these decals and license plates go directly to sea turtle research and conservation.