Last year Mote recorded over 4500 loggerhead sea turtle nest and the Coastal Wildlife Club recorded over 4,400. The Coastal Wildlife Club also had about 240 green sea turtle nests on their beaches, mainly Manasota Key. Manasota Key is one of the most popular nesting areas for both the threatened loggerheads and the endangered green sea turtles on the Gulf Coast.
I have been a volunteer for the Coastal Wildlife Club for the last 12 years. Two mornings each week I hit the beach and with other volunteers we monitor the sea turtle nesting activity from the night before. We get there very early, well before sunrise and our shift can last anywhere from 2 to 5 hours depending on the activity the night before.
Loggerhead turtles are the most common sea turtle in Florida. They can weigh anywhere from 155 to 375 pounds and live to be over 60 years old. The female turtle will start laying eggs at about 25 years of age. The male turtle never leaves the water once he has entered the water as a newborn hatchling.
Green turtles are quite large and their nest are gigantic. You can see these nests on the beach especially Manasota Beach. They weigh anywhere from 240 to 420 lbs. and live to be 70 to 80 years old. Both types of turtles, when they come ashore, will dig a nest and lay anywhere from 65 to 150 eggs. The eggs are about ping pong ball size, shape and appearance. The average nest is about 115 eggs. After the mother turtle lays her eggs she heads back to the water and may lay another two or three nests during the mating season. The baby turtles are on their own as soon as the mother buries the eggs. Interestingly the mother turtle will travel thousands of miles and return to the beach where she was born to lay her eggs. Fascinating when you think about that.
After about 50 to 60 days and buried in about two feet in the sand, the baby turtles will emerge and head straight for the sea. Instinct tells them to look for glittering lights. For 110 million years the only glittering light was starlight on the surface of the water. That’s why we now have regulations in effect from Longboat all the way to Stump Pass where people must shield their lights at night so they don’t cause disorientation from the baby hatchlings.
Check out the short videos below.
The first video: I came upon a nesting green turtle just after daylight a couple of years ago on my zone on Manasota Beach. You will be amazed at her size and the size of her nest as she is camouflaging the nest after burying her eggs.
The second video is of the same mother turtle as she heads back to the gulf.
The third video contains facts about sea turtles from Oceana. I think you will enjoy these videos and learn something new about this fascinating species we share our beaches with.
Please remember these turtles that visit us every year are very rare and are threatened or endangered species. If you come upon a nesting mother turtle, who almost always waits for the cover of darkness to make her nest and lay her eggs, stand back. Do not approach. Do not shine a light or take flash pictures. These activities will startle the mother and she will turn and head back to the Gulf and most likely drop her eggs in the water which will be a total loss of about 125 new hatchlings. Scientist’s believe that only one out of a thousand hatchlings ever make it to adulthood. So you can see why conservation efforts are so important.
If you would like to accompany me, especially on a Tuesday morning turtle patrol, contact me on my cell phone at; 941-544-1222.
If you would like to learn more about our organization and our sea turtle conservation efforts visit our website; coastalwildlifeclub.org.
We are looking for dedicated volunteers who can work at least two or three mornings a week. Training lasts for about one year. Then you will be assigned to work a certain zone or zones with other experienced volunteers. Honestly, the work is hard and the mornings are hot and you will get sandy and dirty as we dig for eggs, excavate newly hatched nests, stake and sometimes cage nests from predators, clean up predated nests that have been destroyed by coyotes, armadillos, racoons and red ants. We carry lots of gear and record every single thing we do or that we encounter rain or shine every day for the next six months. But, it is very rewarding and well worth the effort.