From nesting to baby showers, this is their time of year
Sea turtle nesting season runs from May through the end of October, with the height of the hatching season in August. Every year around the same time mother sea turtles return to the same beaches they were born on to lay her eggs. About 45 to 60 days after a mother sea turtle hauls her heavy body onto the quiet beach under the cloak of night, digs a hole in the sand with her flippers and lays her eggs, her babies are ready to hatch. With luck, one of their babies will someday do the same thing. This year, the beaches of Pensacola saw over 20 nests!
This year four species of sea turtles chose beaches in the Panhandle for nesting. Loggerheads, our most common, greens, Kemp's ridleys and leatherbacks.
All of them are federally projected because their numbers have been in decline due to habitat loss and light pollution from coastal development. During the season, volunteers and biologist watch nests closely to track, monitor and protect them from potential threats.
To contribute to protecting these coastal creatures, here’s where you can help.
Watch, don’t touch
If you see a sea turtle mother or hatchling on the beach, watch from a distance, quietly. Bright lights of flashlights and flash photography will scare a mother away and disorient the hatchlings. Red light is thought to be less distracting.
Darken the beach
Turn off outside lights at night on beachfront property during sea turtle nesting season. Or replace outside lighting with sea turtle-friendly lights. Close the blinds and drapes on beach-facing windows at night so the interior lights won’t distract the turtles.
Leave only your footprints
Remove all of your beach supplies from the beach at the end of the day and fill in any holes on the beach. Pensacola Beach and Navarre Beach have ordinances prohibiting items left on the beach that may entangle sea turtles. Holes can entrap and harm sea turtles.
Call for help
To report someone disturbing a sea turtle or nest, or if you see a sea turtle or hatchling that appears to be sick, injured, in distress or dead, please call the local authorities and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission 24-hour hotline at 888-404-FWCC or *FWC or #FWC from your mobile phone.
Time to Celebrate!
The Sea Turtle Baby Shower on August 10 is a time to welcome these new hatchings and learn more about their habitat. Kids and adults will be able to participate in games and activities that will educate them in their role on protecting this precious wildlife. Attendees will be able to take the Sea Turtle Pledge and earn a turtle charm, meet Meg the Mermaid, and play the turtle excluder game.
The National Park Service will have real turtle shells on display. “How Do You Measure Up” photo op will be available for pictures. Turtle crafts and tattoos will be available throughout the event provided by Margaritaville Beach Hotel. Other events include the Happy Hatcher Relay Race which demonstrates why it’s important for beachgoers to fill in holes and leave no trace behind when visiting the beach. The Sea Turtle Survivor game reveals how hard it is for baby turtles to escape their predators and make it into adulthood. The Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center will display the “Floating in the Gulf” Demo which will amaze everyone at how quickly careless actions lead to dirty water.
While most of the activities are free, the PBA Beachkeepers will have $1 “Guess the Hatchling Date” and the ECUA will have the quench buddy providing souvenir sport bottles for sale.
The Sea Turtle Baby Shower is located at LandShark Landing from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. (165 Fort Pickens Road, Pensacola Beach, on the Margaritaville Beach Hotel property). The event is free and open to the public.