Timely Turtle Tips

By: Lauren Tjaden

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Every year from May through October, an ancient ritual occurs on the shores of Florida’s beaches, usually under the cover of darkness. It’s nesting season for sea turtles, when mother sea turtles crawl ashore to lay their eggs and bury them in the dunes.

To call the nesting ritual ‘ancient’ is no exaggeration; sea turtles have survived on Earth for more than 100 million years, even outlasting the dinosaurs. Those creatures became extinct 65 million years ago!

In spite of their impressive longevity, all sea turtles in Florida are now considered either endangered or threatened (depending on the species), their numbers reduced by entanglement, habitat loss, and consumption of their eggs and meat.

But the good news is you don’t need to stick your neck out to help protect them. Here are a few timely turtle tips to heed during nesting season.

Do’s and Don’ts:

Do:

  • If you encounter a nesting turtle, remain quiet and observe from a distance.
  • Shield or turn off outdoor lights that are visible on the beach. Artificial lights can affect sea turtle behavior. (For instance, hatchings’ instincts tell them to crawl towards the brightest thing, which should be the sea. If they end up crawling towards the highway instead the outcome is not good.)
  • Close drapes after dark and put beach furniture far back from the water.
  • Fill in holes that may trap hatchlings on their way to the water.
  • Place trash in its proper place.

Don’t:

  • Approach nesting turtles or hatchlings, make noise or shine lights at turtles
  • Use flashlights or fishing lamps on the beach
  • Encourage a turtle to move while nesting or pick up hatchlings that have emerged and are heading for the water
  • Use fireworks on the beach

For more information on how you can help, contact the Sea Turtle Preservation Society (111 S Miramar Ave., Indialantic, FL 32903, phone: 321- 676-1701).

Because doing the right thing helps you to rest easy your own shell.

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