Sea Turtle Nesting Season Is In the Air


Every year from April through October, hundreds of thousands of sea turtles nest on beaches across the southeastern United States from South Carolina to Texas. (Photo by the Fish and Wildlife Service).

The summer season can mean a lot to many people. For school children of all ages, it means summer vacation and a week or two at camp while for some college students, it means either having a summer job or hacing an internship, and for the adults, summer means backyard cleaning and back-to-school shopping for the kids. For sea turtles, however, the summer season means that it’s nesting season because from April through October, thousands of female sea turtles will come to shore on the beaches of the Southeastern United States to lay their eggs with the peak season being in late June and early July for loggerheads. During the night, females will leave the water and crawl up the beach where they will start digging an egg chamber cavity for their eggs before the egg-laying process begins. On average, female sea turtles will lay up to 100 golfball-sized eggs . Once the ggs are laid, the females will then gentely cover the nest with sand before returning to ocean since they do not raise their hatchlings. The hatchlings will develop in the eggs for the next 44-55 days while the sand temperature will determine their gender. If the sand temperature is too warm, then, the hatchlings will be all females while the cooler sand temperature will make all the hatchlings males.  Once the eggs are fully incubated, they will hatch and the hatchlings will emerge from the nest in mass numbers as they make their way into the ocean. However, only 1 in 4,000 sea turtle hatchlings will survive into adulthood and if they do, female hatchlings will return to the same beach where they were born 12-20 years later while their brothers will remain at sea for the reat of their lives.

While watching a sea turtle lay her eggs on a beach is an amazing site to see, it’s very important that such observation has to be done in a very responsible manner. This is because many times when beach goers try to observe a nesting sea turtle, it often results in the female making a false crawl, due to the use of lights that the beach goers use to help them find their way around at night, and you should never ever have a light on you when observing nesting females on a beach. Still, here are some ways you can observe nesting sea turtles without disturbing them.

  • Turn off the lights because both adults and hatchlings rely on the light and reflections of the moon to find their way to the beach and back out to sea. Artifical lights can put sea turtles in dangerous sitiuations, many of which can lead to death.
  • Limit noise by using only soft voices so it would not be disturbing for the nesting turtles.
  • Be sure you give sea turtles the proper amount of space before and after they lay their eggs. When a turtle does begin the egg-laying process, she may be apporached or viewed more easily.
  • Do not take flash photographs, only take flash-free photos from behind the turtle as she lays her eggs.
  • Please do not litter on the beaches because both adults and hatchlings can get either trapped or entangled in the rubbish.

I hope these turtle viewing tips will help observe sea turtles during the nesting season and I hope you get the chance to see a nesting turtle.

Have a great evening everyone,

~Jenna~

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