PERDIDO KEY, Fla. (WKRG) — The first sea turtle hatch of the season happened Monday, Aug. 8, for Perdido Key.
Escambia County Sea Turtle Patrol volunteers discovered the hatch during routine nest checks and were able to safely recover a small number of hatchlings, but the majority of the hatchlings disoriented towards artificial lights,” The county said in a release.
“A full nest assessment will be conducted within the next few days and will provide an accurate count of the total number of eggs in the nest, the number of hatched eggs and other important reproductive data.”
On the evening of July 24, 84 loggerhead hatchlings safely reached the Gulf of Mexico, from Pensacola Beach despite being disoriented by artificial lighting. Escambia County Sea Turtle Patrol volunteers arrived on site in time to assist with hatchling recovery.
Nearly 60% of all turtle hatchlings will be disoriented by land-based lights, which can cause them to wander away from the Gulf of Mexico. Hatchlings that don’t reach the water quickly are at risk of dehydration, starvation and predation.
Disoriented hatchlings can also wander into busy roads, garages and swimming pools. Permitted volunteers are trained in disoriented hatchling response and recover, but still rely on having volunteers in the right place and time. Naturally, dark beaches are the best assurance for making sure hatchling turtles make it to where they belong.
In the release, the county reminds the public of several ways to protect hatchlings and turtles:
- Lights Out! Both hatchlings and nesting turtles need dark beaches to find the Gulf of Mexico. Leave the flashlights and cell phones at home or use a red flashlight when on the beach at night. Turn off beach-facing lights and close windows and curtains to keep our beaches dark.
- Leave Only Footprints! Remove all furniture and toys from the beach when you’re done for the day, including hammocks, tents, canopies, chairs, toys and sports equipment.
- If You Dig it, Fill It! Large holes, trenches and moats create dangerous obstacles for hatchling and nesting sea turtles. Avoid digging large holes on the beach and flatten sandcastles and fill in holes at the end of your day.
Many nests will be approaching their hatch dates during the late summer months of August and September. According to the release, there are 39 nests on county portions of Pensacola Beach and Perdido Key, including a rare leatherback nest.
If you see a nest hatching or encounter hatchlings turtles on the beach, call Escambia County Marine Resources at 850-426-1257 or 850-554-5869. If you encounter a nesting turtle, turn off all lights and retreat a safe distance away.
If you are a property manager or owner and are interested in how you can make your property more turtle-friendly, please contact Samantha Bolduc at 850-595-3460 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about sea turtles in Escambia County, click the link here or follow the Natural Resources Management Department on Facebook.
All sea turtle work performed by Escambia County was completed under Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission permit #032A and #202.