Written by: Mimi McKee
Sea turtles spend the majority of their lives in the ocean. During nesting season, May through October, female sea turtles emerge to lay eggs. There are four species that nest on Florida’s beaches: green sea turtle, loggerheads, leatherbacks and Kemp’s ridleys. During the 2017 season, 720 sea turtles nests were made in the dunes. This is the second highest nesting year on record in Volusia County.
- In 2017 volunteers and staff counted 634 loggerhead nests. The highest year on record, 2012, had 885 loggerhead nests.
- New records were set for the highest number of green sea turtle nests at 82, surpassing a previous high of 55 set in 2007 and 2013.
- In addition, four Kemp’s ridley nests were counted on Volusia managed beaches. According to sea turtle experts, this is a new record high for the number of Kemp’s ridley nests found in the county with the previous high of two Kemp’s nests being recorded in 1996 and 2014.
Sea turtles will emerge from the ocean at night and crawl up the beach towards the dunes and dig deep holes in the dry sand. The nest is then completely covered and the turtle returns to the ocean. An average nest contains 100 eggs. One female will lay three to five nests each season.
“We were excited to see so many turtles using our beaches again this summer,” said Jennifer Winters, Volusia County’s Habitat Conservation Plan program manager, in a recent news release. “While our season officially ended October 31, we still have some turtle nest activity, thanks in part to Hurricane Irma.”
“We were well into our hatching season with hundreds of nests still marked in the sand when Hurricane Irma impacted us. We lost approximately 200 nests completely because of erosion or tidal inundation, meaning the eggs were either washed away or drowned by water saturating the sand. Fortunately, after the storm, we were able to re-establish about 50 nests, and we even had some new nests laid.”
According to Volusia.org, many factors threaten sea turtles both during their nesting cycle and while in the water. Beach equipment left out at night and even curious people getting too close can also deter a turtle from nesting at any given location. On developed beaches everywhere, females attempting to lay their eggs encounter human-made obstacles such as brightly lit beaches and hard structures such as seawalls and walkovers. Sea turtles have been killed as a result of being mislead by bright artificial lights which can disorient them while out of the water.
Learn more about onsite educational programs at VolusiaSeaTurtles.org. For more information about grant programs, visit HelpingSeaTurtles.org. For more information about Volusia County’s sea turtle program, call (386) 238-4668.