Anyone who’s spent a day at the beach in the summer on Florida’s Space Coast has seen the yellow signs alerting them to watch out for turtle nests from May to October. Seeing an actual loggerhead turtle in person, however, can be more challenging.
Although the peak of sea turtle nesting season is over, you can still take a turtle walk with the Sea Turtle Preservation Society. Walks are provided to the public to observe nesting loggerhead sea turtles. While there are no guarantees you will see a turtle nesting, the walk is located near the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, which is the second largest loggerhead nesting area in the world. Green and leatherback turtles also nest on Florida’s Space Coast; however, visitors are not permitted to watch them nest in this protected habitat.
In addition to watching sea turtles lay eggs, your turtle walk experience includes a presentation about sea turtles that nest in the area, the threats they encounter, and what you can do to help – all while scouts look for loggerheads. After a scout spots a turtle coming to shore, you will follow your guide to the turtle’s location on the beach and stand behind the turtle where she cannot see you. The turtle will dig a hole with her hind flippers and fill the nest with soft-shelled eggs. The guide will place a small red light in the nest to illuminate the eggs, as no bright lights like flashlights are allowed.
Once the mother turtle fills the nest, the sea turtle will cover it with sand and head back to the ocean. Sometimes the guides will allow children to escort the turtle back to the ocean. With a little luck, you may see more than one nesting! Two months after being laid, the sea turtles hatch at night and scramble to the water. The hatchlings then swim across the Gulf Stream to the Sargasso Sea where they live in seaweed beds until they become juveniles.
Seeing a sea turtle nesting is a great experience for all ages. With more than 15,000 to 20,000 sea turtle nests found on the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge’s beaches, it is important to protect sea turtle nests.
Important Turtle Tips for Beachgoers from STPS
If You Find a Hatchling:
- Do not put it in water or air conditioning.
- Do not remove it from the beach.
- Put it in a container on damp cloth/paper, but PLEASE do not put it in water.
- Cover with damp cloth.
- Call the Hotline (321) 206-0646 for further instructions.
If You Find an Exposed Nest:
- Call one of the agencies listed below.
- Do not attempt to collect the eggs yourself. Disturbing the nest or eggs could kill the hatchlings.
If you are interested in a turtle walk on Florida’s Space Coast, call the Sea Turtle Preservation Society at (321) 676-1701 to make reservations for the current season.