With streamline bodies and flipper-like limbs, sea turtles are graceful swimmers well-adapted to life in the marine world. Each species has their own set of adaptations, diet and behaviors. They include Kemp’s Ridley, Hawksbill, Loggerhead, Green, and Leatherback. Sea turtles are able to navigate over long distances, sometimes entire oceans, by using the earth’s magnetic field to guide them back to the beach of their birth where they mate and nest. Nesting is an exhausting process. The female turtle crawls up into the upper beach/dune zone, digs a nest, lays 50-200 eggs, and then crawls back into the Gulf. Aalthough the female sea turtle appears to be crying as they lay eggs, they actually are eliminating salt). Eggs incubate in the sand for 47-75 days, maybe longer in cool weather. Hatchlings emerge from nests at night and race to the surf, where they swim hurriedly toward the open ocean in an attempt to avoid being eaten by the numerous predators that await them on the beach and in the surf. Predation is high from the moment eggs are laid through the first two years of life. Adults need fear few species, except humans and sharks.
Florida dunes and beaches provide critical nesting habitat for sea turtles during May-October. Avoid approaching sea turtles on the beach-provide a wide berth and direct flashlights away from turtles. Human activity may frighten turtles back into the water causing failed nesting attempts which exhaust huge amounts of energy.
Dim beach lights during nesting /hatching season. Sea turtles need dark and quiet beaches for nesting. Hatchling sea turtles are normally attracted to natural light off the ocean-artificial lights are brighter and lure hatchlings in the wrong direction and to certain death. It is a violation of federal law to disturb a sea turtle nest or its markers.
Anyone interested in volunteering for turtle nest watch can contact:
South Walton Turtle Watch Group
56 nests in 2019 (42 Loggerhead, 12 Green, 2 Leatherback)