Sea Turtle Nesting

Sea Turtle Nesting

by Cary Salter

 
This article by TGO Nature Center volunteer, Cary Salter, was written in April 2015.

The beach at Canaveral National Seashore (CNS) this time of year is a popular destination each day—and night, at least for sea turtles.

May through October, female loggerhead, green, and if we’re really lucky, leatherback sea turtles leave the ocean to build nests on the beaches where they were born. Hawksbill and Kemps Ridley occasionally have been reported on CNS beaches.

If you walk the ocean shore before tides–and people—obliterate the tracks, the species which crawled can be determined by the configuration of the tracks.

The leatherback turtle is huge, and its crawl is much larger than other species, nearly eight to ten feet from side to side.  As few as seven leatherback nests are built each season on the six mile beach stretch monitored by U.S. Fish and Wildlife service at Kennedy Space Center.

Loggerhead (thousands of nests in the same stretch) and green sea turtles (hundreds of nests in the same stretch) leave crawls near the same size as each other, but are easily distinguished by the ‘flipper marks’:  green sea turtle flipper marks are opposite of each other, while loggerhead sea turtle flipper marks alternate (right flipper marks appear between the location of left flipper marks).

If walking the beach in early morning, check flipper marks carefully.  If a nest was built then flipper marks will be interrupted by an area of disturbed sand without flipper marks near the highest point from the water.  If it was a ‘false crawl’ (no nest built) the flipper marks will be constant up from the shore and back down to the water’s edge.

According to the Sea Turtle Conservancy, eggs will hatch in about 60 days. Usually hatchlings leave the nest either at night or when temperatures are cooler, due to clouds or rain.

If interested in attending turtle nesting walks, contact the following:  Canaveral National Seashore, 321-267-1110; Sea Turtle Preservation Society in Melbourne, 321 676-1701; or Sea Turtle Conservancy in Melbourne Beach, 321-723-3556.

These popular ranger or guide led trips fill up quickly. If going, take bug repellant. Most do not allow flash photography, and only red-lensed flashlights can be used, as they do not disturb nesting sea turtles.

 

TGO Nature Center – “Living in Harmony with Nature

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