What a wild and wooly year has passed since last year’s Turtle Season but here we are again already. I love turtles, they are fascinating creatures, and to swim with a sea turtle is truly an enlightening experience.
I got that opportunity several years ago when my son graduated High School and we went on a Caribbean cruise. During some of the island excursions, we experienced surf-sprinting iguanas, Milk-Bone-eating fish, inner-tubing down crazy rivers and swimming with sea turtles.
When many of nature’s creatures are out of their element, they appear awkward and vulnerable. Take a waddling penguin, for instance, or a gangly boat-dock pelican or a beach-dragging sea turtle.
However, drop those same creatures into their natural habitats and magical transitions occur. Ever seen a penguin swim like an underwater dart, missile, or torpedo, a blur of graceful zoom? A pelican in flight effortlessly plummets fifty feet down into the water with the ultimate plunge, surfacing seconds later with a flopping fish dinner contained within its massive bill.
I could go on and on but sea turtles, oh, my! With a zigzag smile, they blink their wide eyes and hustle on by like an underwater frisbee. My son, Greg, and I snorkeled alongside a pair of Green Turtles in Antigua for a good twenty minutes and felt honored every second.
Turtle Season began on May 1 and continues up to October 30 and there are some things that you should remain aware of to give these beautiful creatures every chance to nest and allow their hatchlings to reach the sea.
- Leave the beach the way you found it: Clean, smooth and debris free. Obstacles, even the smallest ones, create obstructions that disorient and threaten the tiny newborn hatchlings and holes or mounds can cause a deadly scenario for them. Mothers may eat trash, thinking that it is food, whereas plastics and other poisons will sicken and kill these lovely creatures.
- Be wary of all lights at night. Hatchlings crawl towards the moonlight so flashlights, bonfires, and headlights mislead the hatchlings away from their destination, the ocean. Random lights confuse and frighten mama turtles, causing them to return to the sea without nesting.
- Do not disturb nesting females! If a sea turtle comes ashore to nest, leave her alone and do not approach. Give her space, make no noise or quick movements. If you frighten her away, she may dump her clutch of eggs into the ocean and the unborn turtles will perish.
There are five species that make their way onto our Florida beaches but only two of them are prevalent this far north, the Loggerhead and the Green Turtle. We get a handful of Leatherbacks each season, and every once in a great while, a Kemps Ridley.
They vary in size from around a hundred pounds (Kemps Ridley) all the way up to seven feet long and 1500 pounds (Leatherback). Some of these turtles will astound you with their national travels as they paddle as far north as Novia Scotia. Check out conserveturtles.org for some mind-boggling turtle treks.
Because they have to avoid predators, obstacles, and hardships to achieve maturity at about twenty-four years, only one in a thousand survive to reproduce. Let’s not make it any more difficult for these spectacular animals.
Stop by turtlepatrol.com to learn more.
© Copyright 2021 Daytona News-Journal & Flagler Humane Society
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