Bring on the Turtles!

Well my friends it’s May 1st and sea turtle nesting season in Florida has officially begun.  (Yeeeeeeehaw!) I can’t quite get out to the Canaveral National Seashore today to look for fresh nests, but here’s hoping in the next few weeks that we have a successful start to the season.

Sea turtle biologists and naturalists alike will be watching this nesting season closely, particularly since it follows one of the largest turtle rescue, rehab, and release efforts ever back in January and February due to the hard freezes.   Will we see released animals nest this year?  We’re about to find out.

They’ll be watching closely for other reasons.   Florida is one of the most important places for nesting activity in the United States; a full five of the eight extant species come here to lay their eggs.  Nests are observed on scattered beaches across the peninsula but especially concentrated off of Satellite and Melbourne Beaches, near the Archie Carr Refuge.  For loggerhead sea turtles there are just two main nesting sites – in the world – and Florida is home to one.  In fact nearly 90% of nesting activity for the species in the US occurs on sunshine state turf.

The problem is that in the last decade we’ve seen sharp declines in nesting activity – 40% less in fact. 2009 was one of the worst seasons on record.  Just 32,717 nests were recorded.

Florida’s nesting season coincides with tourist season, and I’ve always wished we could make every tourist watch a ten minute video on the airplane before they’re allowed to disembark to cover sea turtle tips.  Namely: don’t walk on the nests, don’t approach or disturb actively nesting females, don’t allow dogs off the leash when on the beach, obey laws on “lights out for sea turtles” campaigns, and take all of your trash with you when you leave the sand.

Let’s hope this year that I don’t lose my temper and wind up yelling at tourists on the beach – as I have unfortunately done at least twice a season since 2006 – on behalf of the turtles.

For those of you who are closeby, don’t forget to sign up for a nesting walk hosted by the Sea Turtle Preservation Society.  It’s a truly fascinating experience and led by naturalists who are not only knowledgeable but are properly permitted to watch nesting activity unfold.  Plus, its a great way to support the Society’s rescue and rehab efforts throughout the rest of the year.


2 Responses to “Bring on the Turtles!”

  1. In rather startling timing, I had the privilege of writing for Jack and Jill children’s magazine, May/June issue, about Georgia’s Sea Turtle Conservation Center, Jekyll Island. – More than ever, their good work compels. They need support continuing, but especially in the aftermath of the Gulf oil spell.