It’s that time of year again when those super cute and tiny baby turtles hatch from their shells buried in the sand and begin making the often treacherous trek toward the ocean.
Momma turtles laid their eggs on Florida beaches beginning in the spring and throughout the summer, and now they are hatching. That’s why the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is asking the public to help these tiny turtles stay safe with some important tips.
During sea turtle nesting season (March 1-Oct. 31), it is important to keep your distance from sea turtles and their nests on the beach.
Sea turtles are protected, so you should allow hatchlings to crawl toward the ocean on their own. Any interference or disturbance, including getting too close, can cause hatchlings to become confused and lose their way. The trek to the water from the nest is part of the process that helps them orient themselves to their surroundings and for females to remember their home beach.
Bright lights from buildings, cellphones or cameras can cause them to become disoriented, leading the hatchlings to stray away from the shoreline where they need to swim and start their life. If they are unable to reach the ocean quickly, they can become dehydrated and exhausted, making them an easy meal for predators.
“Interfering with a sea turtle hatchling’s trek to the ocean can have fatal consequences,” said FWC sea turtle biologist Dr. Robbin Trindell. “It’s very important to leave them undisturbed. By keeping beaches dark, beachfront buildings dark and giving sea turtles space, we can make sure that our children and grandchildren can also enjoy watching them make this amazing journey.”
FWC also says clear your beach area at the end of the day. Beach furniture, boats, toys and trash left behind on the sand can become obstacles that block crawling sea turtles. Fill in any holes dug in the sand. Holes can trap turtles and they also pose a safety risk to humans.
Please report sea turtles that are sick, injured, dead, entangled or are in danger to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline: 888-404-3922 so trained responders can help.