Adopt a nest at Delnor-Wiggins State Park
When turtle nests appear at Delnor-Wiggins State Park this season you can do more than just look out for the marked off sites. You can adopt one of the nests. The Friends of Delnor-Wiggins State Park volunteer group is sponsoring a new Adopt-A-Nest program to raise money for the turtle monitoring program on this local beach. Residents, visitors and businesses that donate $250 will have a personalized 6”x12” sign on the nest. They will also get an adoption certificate and a small gift. Turtle nesting season runs May 1 to Oct. 31.
Ursula Gibbons, the volunteer running the new program, said it’s a winning situation for everyone. The park gets the needed funds and those that donate get to display their business or their name on a nest for about 60 days until it hatches.
“Last year all of the fundraisers were cancelled,” Gibbons said referring to the pandemic that cancelled the yearly art show and the nature festival.
With two signs being allowed per nest and about 40 nests laid on the beach each season, the fundraiser could net $20,000. All that money goes right back to Delnor-Wiggins.
“It basically goes to support the sea turtle program, the vehicles they drive around to place the cages and the maintenance on the vehicles and the cages. The cages are specially made so that they can be buried into the ground to keep the raccoons out. It’s for anything that pertains to the turtles and monitoring.”
Leslie Inniss of Builders Glass of Bonita was one of the first to adopt a nest.
“I just thought it was a great idea,” Inniss said. “It was a great way to keep the donations in the community and just do something really different.”
Kathy Foster adopted a nest and put her last name and her grandchildren’s last name on the sign.
“I decided to support the Adopt-A-Turtle program to support the park and Friends of the park and to help save sea turtles in a small way,” she began. “And I want to honor my six grandchildren.”
The signs are made like custom license plates. Gibbons said people can customize one as an individual, a family, in memory of a loved one, or as a business.
“It is kind of cool because it is two months of advertising on the beach if you are a business,” Gibbons said. “Thousands of people walk the beach.”
In South Lee County, Turtle Time, a volunteer organization that monitors sea turtles is gearing up for the season. Although it doesn’t officially start until May 1, volunteers began patrolling the beaches on April 15. Warmer Gulf temperatures can bring nesting turtles in earlier than that the official start.
Eve Haverfield, founder and president of Turtle Time is optimistic about this year. Loggerheads typically nest every other year and since 2019 was a record breaking year, Haverfield is expecting lots of nests in 2021.
“If it is anything like 2019 it will be a terrific year,” Haverfield said. “We are already in place. Everybody is really excited and ready to go.”
The state park is also ready.
“We are actually keeping an eye out now,” Gibbons said. “The earliest nest we ever had was late April. It is any time; you just never know.”
Turtle Time has 160 volunteers that monitor Bonita Beach, Fort Myers Beach, Big Hickory Island and Bunche Beach. New this year is an ordinance on Fort Myers Beach that requires LED amber lighting. While the lights off the beach ordinance has been in effect for decades, the amber lighting addition will help both turtles and people, Haverfield says.
“It is an excellent light,” she began. “It uses much less electricity. It provides wonderful soft light and sea turtles don’t respond to it; they don’t see it. It provides plenty of safety for people and it give sea turtles a chance to do their thing and survive. Effective sea turtle lighting leaves them in the dark, not you. That’s what you can say about amber lights.”
Hatchlings follow the lights of the horizon to find the water. Artificial light can send them the wrong way causing them to die before ever reaching the Gulf. That’s why lights, that are not amber LED, cannot shine on or near the beach during nesting season.
“They (turtles) have been around for 200 million years and it is encouraging that they are still here and it is our job to make sure they have what they need to survive, because they are essential to the ocean,” Haverfield concluded.
TO ADOPT A NEST
Email the Friends group at firstname.lastname@example.org
Website: delnorwggins.org (click on adopt on the upper bar)
- Loggerheads are the most common sea turtles in Florida
- Adults grow to more than 3 feet long and weigh 200-350 pounds
- They may travel thousands of miles from feeding grounds to nesting beaches
- Female turtles nest on the same beaches where they were born.
- A female loggerhead may nest 1-7 times during a season at about 15 day intervals
- Incubation takes 55-65 days
- The temperature of the nest determines the sex of the hatchlings.
- Cooler sand produces mostly males, while warmer sand produces mostly females.
- Hatchlings are about two inches long
- Hatchlings emerge at night and are guided by the lighter Gulf horizon to the water
- Both interior and exterior lights must not be visible on the beach.
- Amber LED lights are recommended
- Beach furniture must be removed from the beach from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. (must be behind the dunes and vegetation or up against the house)
- Holes must be filled in
- The rule is in effect from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. May 1 to Oct. 31
Source: Turtle Time