Sea Turtle Nesting Season Begins on Sanibel Island

DATE: May 4, 2016

Sea turtle nesting season has officially begun here on Sanibel Island and experts are hoping the 4-year trend of high nesting numbers continues this year.

Here at Sundial Beach Resort & Spa, we take pride in witnessing this marvel of nature that occurs on the island. Not only do we inform all of our resort guests about the sea turtles, but we help educate them about the do’s and don’ts when it comes to nesting.

About The Sea Turtles

Loggerheads, so named because of their large heads, are the most common sea turtles in Florida. They can weigh 250 to 400 pounds and grow to almost three feet in length. The scientific name for these air-breathing reptiles is Caretta caretta. They are one of the oldest animal species, having been on Earth for millions of years. Only in recent years has there been a threat to the species. Their diet consists of crabs, mollusks and animals that encrust rocks and reefs. Other sea turtle species found on Sanibel include green, Kemp’s ridley, leatherback and hawksbill.

About Sea Turtle Nesting

Sea turtle nesting season begins May 1 each year and continues through October in Southwest Florida. While nesting only occurs through August, hatching continues through October. The nest cavity is about 18 to 22 inches in depth. The female returns to the island where she was born, then digs the nest, lays her eggs and heads back to sea. The turtle eggs have an incubation period of between 55 and 65 days. The little hatchlings are only 2 inches long. They come out at night and make their way to the Gulf.

Sea turtle on the beach.

What’s New This Year?

This year for the first time, Sanibel will have two volunteers patrol the beach four or five nights a week to tag the mother turtles, according to an article in the Fort Myers News Press. While tagging has been done previously elsewhere, the tagging done on Sanibel will add to the pool of knowledge about these creatures. This will allow researchers to determine if there are any changes in patterns or genetics of those turtles who come on shore.

How You Can Help the Sea Turtles

The following guidelines for protecting the sea turtles come from the Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce and Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation:

  • Turn off any lights that could draw attention away from the Gulf of Mexico to the land. No light should be shining toward the beach.
  • Remove all items from the beach including beach umbrellas, chairs, shoes, sand pales, etc. These can be obstacles for the hatchlings.
  • Remove beach litter like plastic bags, balloons and other non-degradable items as they may be fatal to sea turtles who mistake these items for food.
  • Fill in any holes you create on the beach, like when you are digging and building sand castles.
  • Refrain from using flash photography to catch the hatchlings making their way to the Gulf. The flashes could prevent them from finding their way.
  • Quietly observe a nesting turtle from a distance. Stay behind her so she doesn’t see you.
  • Do not harass a turtle by touching her or prodding her back toward the water.
  • Leave sea turtle nest identification markers in place on the beach.
  • Leave nesting sites undisturbed.

Last year Sundial’s beach was home to many sea turtle nests. Watch for updates and photos as nesting season progresses! We’re looking forward to your visit to Sundial Beach Resort & Spa. Contact us today.

Share Post