SEA TURTLES ARE A BIG DEAL AROUND HERE!!!
Each summer sea turtles come to the St. Joseph Peninsula, crawl ashore during the night, and lay their eggs. After laying a hundred or more ping pong sized eggs, these 200-300 pound giants cover their nest with sand and return back to the sea. After an incubation period of about 50-75 days, baby turtles hatch from their eggs, climb up through the sand, and scurry to the Gulf of Mexico. Sea turtles use dark sand dunes and the light from the stars and the moon that reflects off of the Gulf’s waters to find their way back to the sea.
Unfortunately, lights from buildings, streets and even bonfires interfere with their ability to navigate. Confused adults and hatchlings have wandered under houses and into driveways and roadways. Their inability to get to the water quickly puts them at great risk of predation, sun exposure and being run over.
YOU CAN HELP……
Turn off all outside lights, close curtains and shards, and do not light bonfires from May through October.
Use only turtle-safe red lights on the beach at night.
Remove all recreational equipment, beach furniture and trash at the end of the day.
Fill in deep pits or holes in the sand and level any sand sculptures that may block the path of a nesting female or emerging hatchling.
Observe nesting females and emerging hatchlings from a distance. Don’t make loud, startling noises. Leave the area in darkness – do not shine lights or take flash pictures.
Keep pets on leashes and clean up after them.
When boating, remain at a respectful distance of 50 yards or more from sea turtles. Never approach sea turtles in the water; if you are approached by a sea turtle, put your watercraft’s engine in neutral and allow it to pass. Sea turtles should not be encircled or trapped between watercraft, or between watercraft and the shore.
When fishing, do not leave gear unattended and please make sure you dispose of all line and other equipment properly. If you hook a sea turtle, cut the line as close to the hook as possible. Remove the hook only if it can be done without injury to you or the turtle. Do not remove the hook if it has been swallowed by the sea turtle. Immediately call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922). Working together we can help these threatened and endangered species survive. If you see a stranded or injured sea turtle, please call 888-404-FWCC (3922)
I co-founded and am on the Board of Gulf World Marine Institute, a non-profit to rescue and rehabilitate sea turtles and dolphins. Our website is www.gulfworldmarineinstitute.org Please click here to see a short video of one of our releases this past winter.