It’s officially the most magical time of the year: sea turtle hatching season! Every year, Sanibel Island is home to hundreds of sea turtle nests, totaling thousands of eggs laid. The majority of nests on the island belong to loggerhead turtles, with the occasional leatherback or Kemps Ridley species.
We spoke with Megan, a technician from the SCCF Sea Turtle Nesting Program, about the nests on our beach and how the conservation group works to give these tiny turtles the best chance.
Every year, during nesting season, the team from SCCF (Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation) patrols the beach nightly in search of nests. When they’re discovered, the technicians from the Sea Turtle Research program mark the nests and place a screen overtop the eggs to protect them from predators.
(photo by Heather Cantrell)
After a nest is laid, it’s monitored daily throughout incubation for any signs of disturbance (predator activity, tidal inundation, etc.). Once the nest hatches, SCCF evaluates the contents to determine how many hatchlings reached the sea. Approximately 100 volunteers help with the nest monitoring effort on Sanibel and Captiva islands.
Sea turtles typically hatch in the middle of the night, the best time to avoid predators and obstacles and follow the light of the moon to the water. There are a number of ways we can work together to make our beaches the safest environment possible for sea turtles.
- Turn off or shield all lights that are visible from the beach. Do not use flashlights or cell phone lights on the beach. If necessary, use amber or red LED bulbs.
- Do not disturb the screens covering nests. They prevent predators from eating the eggs and the hatchlings emerge through the holes without assistance.
- Remove all beach furniture and equipment from the beach at night.
- Dispose of fishing line properly to avoid wildlife entanglement.
- Fill in large holes that can trap hatchlings and nesting sea turtles.
- Do not disturb nesting turtles – please do not to get too close, shine lights on, or take flash photos of nesting sea turtles.
- Pick up litter.
If you come across a nesting turtle or sea turtle hatching, call the SCCF Sea Turtle Hotline: 978-728-3663
Information and photos provided by SCCF.