Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Sharing the Beach: Nesting Season for Sea Turtles

Loggerhead Turtle Tracks
If you see sea turtle tracks on the beach within the Archie Carr Refuge, it is most likely a Loggerhead. Almost 90% of all Loggerhead nesting within the United States occurs in Florida. And approximately 25% of those are within the 20-mile stretch of the Archie Carr beaches. Each species of sea turtle has distinct tracks..

TAMPA, FL – People aren't the only ones who find Florida's beaches a necessary part of summer. It's nesting season for sea turtles in the state and the endangered animals are laying hundreds of nests every night along the 1100 miles of Florida's coasts.

According to Elizabeth Fleming, Florida representative of Defenders of Wildlife, it's important for Floridians to remember that beaches provide a home to hundreds of species.

"We don't think of them as being wild ecosystems, but they are, and they're very important for sea turtles and for many species," Fleming declared.

She said it's important to pick up trash, turn off beach lights and remove any beach umbrellas or chairs in the evening, especially during turtle nesting season.

Nesting for Florida sea turtles is on the increase this year, and appears to be following a 23-year trend of about 13 percent growth on average.

The continued growth of the sea turtle population is great news for a species that was almost wiped out because of a lack of protection and damaged habitat just 30 years go.

Lew Ehrhart, a biology professor at the University of Central Florida, said the protection offered to sea turtles under the Endangered Species Act has had much success.

"A little protection goes a long way," he asserted. "If we keep the beaches healthy, we can assure their existence into the next century."

Elizabeth Fleming said that because the beaches are habitat for turtles and other wildlife, people should remember to take their trash with them, including leftover food.

"Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints when you go to the beach," she said, adding that "people don't think about raccoons, sea gulls, even ants, (which) destroy (turtle) nests every year."

Fleming explained that the animals that might be attracted by discarded food pose a danger to turtles and their nests.

Female sea turtles come ashore from May to October to lay their eggs, which hatch about 60 days later.

Lights on the beach can also confuse the turtles and cause them to go the wrong direction, away from the water.

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