Finding Sea Turtles
Imagine that a turtle weighing about 300 lbs. came to your local Florida beach and laid eggs. Sounds like something out of prehistoric history, right?
What if you found out you didn’t miss seeing that turtle by millions of years but only a few hours?
That is indeed what happens in May through October in Florida and other Southeastern coastal areas as loggerhead sea turtles, an endangered species, emerge from the water at night to lay eggs.
Bands of volunteers (the link here is to one such organization, the Longboat Key Turtle Watch) work together in the mornings to comb beachfront areas, looking for evidence of a sea turtle nest. It’s easier to spot than you think; what looks like tractor tracks may actually be tracks from a turtle’s flippers. Volunteers will then dig in the sand of the area where the tracks stop, measuring how deep down in the sand the eggs were laid and how many eggs were seen. (The turtles commonly lay 50 to 200 eggs at time.) The volunteers track this information for the state. They also build a protective area around the nests to prevent disruption.
Turtles commonly come to shore to lay eggs but can become disoriented by light, which leads them toward roads or other areas that are unsafe for them. For this reason, beachside communities commonly have up signs asking residents to leave off any lights near the beach during egg-laying season. Lights can confuse the turtles and cause them to return to shore without laying eggs.
During the day, the turtles return to their ocean-based life. In addition to humans disrupting the eggs in the sand, predators such as dogs, raccoons, or crabs are threats to the eggs.
Hatchlings are usually born after 60 days, and they go to the water on their own, according to the Florida Wildlife Commission. See a picture of a loggerhead sea turtle below.