The sea turtles have returned to Collier County. While sea turtle nesting season doesn’t officially start until Friday, May 1, the first Collier County turtle nest appeared on Marco Island earlier this month. Nesting season will continue through October.
The greatest threats to both adult and hatching sea turtles are caused by man. But there are things we can do to protect the sea turtles as they nest and hatch.
- To protect nesting females and the nests and hatchlings themselves, turn off lights that shine on the beach, including your cell phones. If you can see your shadow, the light is too bright and may deter an approaching female or confuse the hatchlings, who find the water by going towards light reflected off the Gulf of Mexico.
- If you see a turtle crawling out of the ocean or digging a nest, stay at a distance. Running up to her, walking in front of her, shining a light or making a noise can cause her to abandon her nesting.
- Never stop a turtle that is returning to the water. It is hard work for a turtle to maneuver its heavy weight on land so she needs all her energy to return to the water without disturbance.
- Leave the nests, eggs and hatchlings untouched. Eggs that have been uncovered or moved probably will not hatch. Preventing a hatchling from reaching the sea can weaken it and lessen its chances of survival.
- Place trash in trash cans. Trash left on the beach can be a death trap for the hatchlings.
- Please keep your pets off the beach. Pets can dig up nests, eat hatchlings and frighten nesting females away.
- If you dig holes in the sand, please fill them in before you leave. Not only are they a great danger to adult and hatchling sea turtles, but they are also dangerous for sea turtle surveyors and code enforcement inspectors conducting night lighting compliance.
- Finally, please remove beach chairs and other furniture off the beach each night. Furniture left on the beach after 9:30 p.m. is subject to penalties under the Collier County Land Development Code.
Remember, sea turtle nests are protected by law. If you find a dead sea turtle, notify the Collier County Parks and Recreation Department at (239) 252-2952.