That time again: Loggerhead sea turtle nesting and hatching season

Two baby sea turtles are released into the Gulf of Mexico at Vanderbilt Beach on Wednesday. The county has seen an increase in the number of nests this year and more could still appear in the next week or two. 
Carrie Wise/staff

Photo by CARRIE WISE // Buy this photo

Two baby sea turtles are released into the Gulf of Mexico at Vanderbilt Beach on Wednesday. The county has seen an increase in the number of nests this year and more could still appear in the next week or two. Carrie Wise/staff

— As the Gulf of Mexico water temperatures warm up, the protected Loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) will soon return to the Marco Island beaches.

Living year round in the open and near shore waters to feed and rest, the adult female sea turtles will begin nesting on our beaches between May and August. Sixty days after the nests are laid, the hatchlings will emerge and begin the trek to the Gulf of Mexico usually between July and October. So, the next six months – May 01 through October 31 – is a crucial time of year for this threatened marine sea turtle population on the Marco Island beaches.

Sea turtles and people can easily coexist if actions to preserve and share the common habitat – Marco Island’s beautiful beach! In the effort to support the Collier County Sea Turtle Monitoring Program and to help prevent disorientation from occurring and protect the sea turtles, the City of Marco Island does monitor and ensure compliance of the following ordinances: Ordinance 01-35 (Sea Turtle Protection), Ordinance 99-7 (Lighting Regulations), and Ordinance 98-12 (Beach Ordinance). General lighting requirements for sea turtle nesting and hatching season are the following:

n Any lights visible to the beach after 9 PM should be turned off, shielded, or otherwise modified between the dates of May 01 through October 31.

n Outside lights that can not be turned off for safety reasons can be temporarily shielded with foil, hoods or painted with black heat resistant oven paint on the beach-facing side.

n Low wattage yellow lights (preferably low pressure sodium vapor lights) are less attractive to sea turtles and good replacements for white lights.

n Closed blinds and curtains can shield bright interior lights that normally shine onto the beach.

n Outside wall and ceiling balcony lights should be off by 9 p.m.

n To ensure compliance, property managers, beach vendors, and/or residents, please step out on the beach at 9 p.m., view the building or vendor area to determine what lights need shading or turned off. If you can see the direct light or your shadow on the beach, the light is too bright!

n The sea turtles need a beach free of any barriers that would prevent nesting. Beach furniture, toys, tents, any other equipment and all garbage should be removed from the beach EVERY night.

n If you witness a turtle crawling out of the ocean or digging a nest, remain quiet and at a distance and never stop a turtle that is returning to the water. Movements and noises can easily frighten a female sea turtle and prevent nesting.

n No flashlights, flash photography or cell phone lights should be used on the beach and lights should never be pointed at sea turtle or light a nest.

n To report dead or injured sea turtles or disoriented hatchlings, please immediately call Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at 1-888-404-3922 (FWCC) and the Marco Island Sea Turtle Monitor, Mary Nelson: Mobile # 239-289-9736.

If you need additional information or have any questions and/or comments, please contact the City of Marco Island at 239-389-5003 (office), 239-825-0579 (mobile) or nrichie@cityofmarcoisland.com.

Do your part, keep our beaches dark!

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