Written for the Flagler Humane Society
It’s not something that people generally think about unless they’re strolling the beach and happen upon a turtle nest quartered off with wood stakes and bright ribbon. But it is Turtle Season and it’s a pretty big deal because the sea turtles need our help to survive and propagate. You see, along with so many other human intrusions, we have managed to curtail their survival as well.
Sea Turtles are marvelous creatures; Just ask Lori Ottlein, Volusia/Flagler Turtle Patrol veteran. She’s patrolled Flagler County beaches for thirty years at the crack of dawn lending a helping hand to these fabulous fledglings. She’s saving people’s lives all night long as an Emergency Room nurse at Halifax Health Medical Center and then comes out to the beach to continue with the life-saving: turtles.
Thank you, Lori, you are a marvelous creature, yourself.
Why do the turtles need our help?
Light pollution has generated major hurdles for these incredible marine animals. The mama turtle crawls up on the beach at night to bury her eggs and 30 to 45 days later, the tiny hatchlings dig out of the nest to race down to the water’s edge before some ravenous predator picks them off. How do they know where to go? Instinctively, they head toward the light of the moon, which, just like the sun, rises in the east and sets in the west. If they can see the moon, it’s over the ocean and a beacon to their survival.
Unless someone has lit a bonfire, then they head towards that instead and the results are disastrous.
Any source of light that competes with the moonlight wreaks havoc on these poor little creatures. Headlights, streetlamps, flashlights, and other miscellaneous illuminations cause them to lose their direction, herding them off to an ugly demise.
Fortunately, many beach communities have enacted ordinances to protect these creatures and even come up with innovated lens shields that keep community lights, such as streetlamps and public restrooms, from disrupting their scramble to safety.
Predators continue to be a problem but poachers remain the worse. These criminals raid their nests and harvest the offspring for their own personal profit and gain. Again, many beach communities have risen to the threat by enacting severe penalties for invading the turtle nests.
And finally, loud noises, like fireworks, can frighten off the mama turtles before they even get a chance to build their nests. Waste, debris, and holes dug in the beach can all create insurmountable hazards that impede the scrabble to the sea of these darling newborns.
So, the next time you see a turtle nest remember all the energy and love that people like Lori have dedicated to help keep these animals safe.
We should all try to do the same.
© Copyright 2020 Flagler Humane Society
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