Sunday, May 1, 2011

“Crush: Cuz we were like, "woaaaah.", and I was like, "woaaaah." and you were like, "woaaahh..."” from Finding Nemo

The coolest sea turtle evah!

One of the most marvelous sites you'll ever see on the Gulf coast of Florida is a sea turtle crawling  up the beach to make a nest and lay her eggs.  The female turtle uses her flippers to dig her nest and deposit about 100 ping-pong sized eggs.  She then uses her flippers to cover & camouflage the nest then returns to the sea leaving behind her brood to hatch on their own in approximately 8 weeks.  Most turtle babies hatch at night.  They depend on the moon & stars over the Gulf of Mexico to guide them back to the water. 

 The trek from the nest to the beach can be treacherous for the hatchings due to predators like raccoons, fire ants, & sea birds, beach furniture and sand sculptures, & artificial lighting from condos & street lights.  In an effort to help the turtle population grow most coastal communities have laws in place to limit the environmental lighting from May 1 through October 31.  This puts a damper on one of my favorite pastimes - night shelling but the trade off is well worth it.

Last October I was in the right place at the right time.  A turtle nest hatched in the daytime about 50 yards up the beach from me.  I got a first hand look at the struggle the turtle hatchlings face from the get go.  First they have to crawl in the direction of the water not the road.  Then heading for the water they have to make their way across the sand climbing over sand castles, holes left by umbrellas in the sand, and other debris left by beach-goers. All the while sea gulls are circling overhead.  No wonder the odds are 1 in 1,000 sea turtles makes it to maturity.

There are turtle patrols organized through Mote Marine that cover the Manatee & Sarasota County beaches. These volunteers walk the beach every morning looking for new nests.  They are also looking for obstructions in the sand that could hinder any hatchlings from a clear path back to the sea. 

What can the everyday beach goer do to help?
*Pick up trash
*Fill in any holes on the beach
*Remove furniture from the beach
*Observe silently from a distance if you happen to see a nesting turtle
*Use a red-filtered light to see at night

On April 22 the first Kemp's Ridley sea turtle nest was found on Sanibel Island.  Another nest was reported to the north on Anna Maria Island on April 27.   So turtle nesting on the west coast of Florida has gotten an early start. With just a little extra care, concern, and awareness we can help the population grow for the future beach goers to enjoy.

Another blogger is talking  turtles today.  Stop by and see my shell sistah Pam @ i Love Shelling.