Southwest Florida attracts travelers from around the world seeking unique ecotourism opportunities. The region doesn't disappoint, especially when it comes to wildlife viewing. The Gulf of Mexico is home to over 15,000 species of marine wildlife including five of the world's seven known sea turtle species. From May through October, the loggerhead, green, kemps ridley, leatherback and hawksbill turtles use Gulf beaches to nest and lay their eggs. In many cases, this ancient ritual takes place on the very same stretches of sand many of us use for recreation and relaxation. That's why, if you're in southwest Florida during the nesting season, you too, might experience one of Mother Nature's wonders, but it's important to do so without disrupting the delicate life cycle of these majestic and elusive creatures.
Fascinating Sea Turtle Factoids
- Between 50 and 200 eggs can be deposited in one nesting.
- A single turtle can repeat this process every 2 weeks or 5-8 times in a season.
- They return to the region of their own birth to nest - sometimes within a mile’s distance of where they hatched.
- A satellite-tracked leatherback completed a 12,774 mile trans-Pacific migration.
- Sand temperature determines sex during incubations of about 2 months.
- Hatchlings use faint light of the horizon to find the water.
- 7 out of 10 hatchlings reach water. 1 in 1,000 survive to sexual maturity.
As endangered or threatened, all sea turtles are protected under state and federal law from being possessed, disturbed or harassed; same goes for their nests and eggs. Turtle nesting and hatching activities take place at night so ordinances prohibit artificial light from reaching the beach.
Tips to Avoid Injuring Turtles or Disrupting the Nesting or Hatching Process
- Remove all items including furniture, towels or toys from the beach at night.
- Discard all trash and leave nothing but footprints behind.
- Avoid shining flashlights or light from vehicles or buildings onto the beach.
- View nesting or hatching turtles from a fair distance. Enjoy the moment, but remain quiet and calm.
- Do not disturb nests marked by research and volunteer organizations that monitor these sites until eggs hatch.
Sea turtles are amazing, but fragile animals that we share our beaches and marine environment with here in southwest Florida. It’s our hope that, like us, you may be fortunate enough to see one in the wild, and that we all continue working together to ensure their long-term survival.