Sea turtles nests are finally hatching all along our barrier islands. Some lucky visitors got to witness the first nest to hatch on Pensacola Beach on Thursday.
Baby sea turtles nests are finally hatching along our local beaches.
On Thursday, some lucky vacationers and residents got to witness 143 loggerheads erupt from their nest on Pensacola Beach, which is a rare opportunity for the public.
Gulf Islands National Seashore biologist Mark Nicholas said he sent his biology tech, Rob Wise, to invite the people in nearby houses when he realized the nest between Avenidas 13 and 14 was about to hatch about 8 p.m.
"Rob went up and told them to come down as hatching was imminent, and they all came down, adults and kids, and it hatched right in front of everyone within 10 minutes," Nicholas said. "The crowd was great, from Ohio, Texas, and some were originally from Costa Rica. So turtles were the talk for sure. What a great night to be on the beach."
It's hard to know exactly when the smattering of nests on our beaches will hatch, typically 45 to 75 days after the mother lays them. And many nests are in remote areas and sometimes hatch in the middle of the night. For these reasons, it's too difficult to organize groups to enjoy the ancient ritual, which has been happening on our barrier islands since they formed, park rangers say.
"On the East Coast, they have turtle walks each night," said Rebecca Carruth, a seashore biologist technician who helps monitor sea turtle nests. "Over there, they have 1,000 nests per mile, and we have about one or two per mile."
So far, there are more than 30 nests along the seashore beaches and on Pensacola Beach. Navarre Beach has eight loggerhead nests.
Unfortunately, while tourists enjoyed the successful hatching on Pensacola Beach, an armadillo was destroying the eggs in a nest of endangered Kemp's ridley turtles on Perdido Key.
About 30 surviving turtles were discovered and collected by turtle monitors Friday morning.
Because it's unsafe to release them in to the Gulf during daylight hours, when a gantlet of predators can easily pick them off, Carruth planned to release them in the Fort Pickens area Friday night.
Even at night, a majority of the hatchlings never make it far. Only 1 percent will live to sexual maturity.
The Kemp's nest was the second nest to hatch on Perdido Key this season.
Nesting and hatching season runs from May 1 to Oct. 31.
Carruth says now that nests are hatching, turtle monitors will be reminding beach residents and visitors to dim their lights for baby sea turtles. They use the glow of celestial lights on the Gulf's horizon to guide them to the water. Artificial lights from beach homes and condominiums confuse them.
"We (hand out) general information ... turn off your porch light or close your blinds or drapes," she said. "Some of the homes have huge windows that face the Gulf. If the lights are on it, it's too bright. We also ask people to avoid using flashlights when they are exploring at night. A head lamp with a red LED is preferable for all wildlife."
Watch for sea turtles
The Santa Rosa Island Authority offers the following turtle friendly message:
Sea turtles face many hazards on our beaches: boat impacts; plastic; fishing lines; deep holes dug on beaches; chairs and umbrellas that block their paths; and disorienting lights.
Female turtles come to our shores to nest at night, so be sure to remove any beach items, trash, or fishing lines before nightfall. Also, extinguish any exterior lights and close drapes and blinds at night. Pensacola Beach is turtle friendly — and if we all do our part, we can keep it that way.
Sea turtles are a federally protected group of marine reptiles. They are protected by the Endangered Species Act and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Interaction with turtles is prohibited. If you see a sea turtle that needs help or assistance you can call the Santa Rosa Island Authority at 850-932-2257 or Gulf Islands National Seashore at 850-934-2600.
For more sea turtle facts, visit www.visitpensacolabeach.com/eco-trail/sea-life/sea-turtles.php.
(article by Katie Kingfirstname.lastname@example.org found online here