Sea Turtle Nesting Season

Clearwater Marine Aquarium Sea Turtle Conservation

Time for a sea turtle nesting season check-in.  As most of you know nesting season on our beaches is May 1 thru October 31.  That window encompasses a wonderfully balmy summer along the Gulf Beaches and includes a hurdle or two for the mama turtles as well.

One turtle hurdle.

The full moon can create very high tides in the summer on our beaches and bring with it unexpected water over the nests.  Good news.  Our friends at Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) shared the nests can endure a feasible time of being underwater as they are several feet below the surface.  So, the natural ebb and flow of full moon high tides can be survivable.

Two turtle hurdle.

Hurricane season.  Large storms of the tropical variety can cause even higher tides and storm surge that inundates the beaches, property and streets, along with the turtle nests in a fashion that they are not sustainable.  As an example, last year after Hurricane Idalia a number of turtle nests were lost.  However, according to our friends again over at CMA, of the 227 nests they observed in the 2023 season, only 75 of the nests were impacted by Idalia and 14 were able to be re-established.  Fortunately, many of the nests had already hatched, which made for a great success story overall.

Three turtle hurdle.

Humans on the beach.  This is where we come in.

Protect sea turtles

Signs on our beaches sharing tips to protect sea turtles

Lighting.  If your home can be seen from the beach, turn off outdoor lights at night or replace them with turtle safe lighting. Don’t use flashlights (including cell phones) at night on the beach.

Holes.  If you see any holes on the beach, please lend a hand or foot and fill them in.  Holes can trap or confuse turtles and hinder them from success.

Trash.  We are all on the same team already.  In addition to removing your own trash, please remove remnants left behind by others when you are on the beach.  Each of us picking up a few items makes a big difference every day.

Don’t touch.  If you see a turtle or a nest or hatchlings, please do not touch or disturb them.  They are protected and it is our job to help them flourish each season.

Turtle Tracks.

Loggerhead turtles are the ones that primarily nest on our beaches.  There are two other species who can nest here but it is rare, leatherbacks and Kemp’s ridley turtles. Leatherbacks (up to 6 ft) are much larger than loggerheads (up to 3 ft) while Kemp’s ridley turtles (up to 2 ft) are smaller.

Turtle nest

Recent nest in Madeira Beach this season

DYK?  CMA identified a leatherback nest on our beaches this season, it is the first one documented in Pinellas county!

We’re on a roll. CMA shared a 2024 check-in of observing 100 nests not long ago.  This citizen scientist spotted number 138 the other day in Madeira Beach.

Fingers crossed for a successful nesting season.

July 6 update.  CMA documented the 200th nest on our beaches.  This is great news as a total of 227 nests were observed in 2023.  It feels like a successful report at approximately a third of the way through the season.

—Sandy B.

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