During spring and summer, giant sea turtles lumber up the beach in the middle of the night to deposit their eggs. Leaving tire-like tracks, they'll choose a nesting site in the dunes; dig a hole; lay about 100 eggs; bury them; then head back to the ocean. Loggerhead, Leatherback and Green turtles frequent our beaches during the nesting season form late April until September.
After incubating for approximately two months, the hatchlings erupt as a group from their nest in the cool of the night and scurry to the sea following the glow of the moon. Many are distracted by nearby lights and head in the wrong direction, only to be crushed by cars or roasted by the blazing sun. Others fall victim to predators like raccoons or birds. Those who make it offshore spend the next few years clinging to seaweed and drifting along coastal currents. Thousands drown in shrimp trawls and fishing gear. Others die from pollutants or from swallowing trash mistaken for food. Only a few reach maturity after several years and may live for 20 or 30 years more.
If you're lucky enough to encounter one of these endangered turtles as she lays her eggs, or a group of youngsters as they scramble for life... observe from a distance as you're witnessing one of Mother Nature's greatest gifts!
Sea Turtles Even More Endangered After 2004 Storms
The Treasure Coast is one of the most popular nesting grounds for giant sea turtles. They come ashore to nest in the beginning of May and hatching continues until late October. A female can lay several nests during one season and only nests every two or three years. The nesting process takes hours as she must drag herself out of the water and into the dunes, dig a hole with her flippers and deposit about hundred eggs the size of a ping pong ball. She then covers the nest and never returns.
After incubating for about two months the hatchlings break out of their shell and thrash against the walls of the nest causing the hole to collapse. As the sand falls to the bottom, they scramble to the beach and scurry to the water where they will live in seaweed beds drifting along the Gulf Stream for several years until they are old enough to move into coastal waters.
The main danger for hatchlings is from artificial lighting. When the babies emerge they instinctively follow the brightest direction. Normally this would be the open night sky reflected in the ocean. But on developed beaches artificial lighting attract the hatchlings and they move in the wrong direction only to be crushed by cars or burn in the blazing sun.
If you happen upon a nesting turtle or youngsters as they scramble for life, observe from a distance, keep flashlights turned off and consider yourself blessed to witness one of nature's greatest gifts.
The Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, the twenty mile section of coastline from Melbourne Beach to Wabasso Beach in Florida is the most important nesting area for loggerhead sea turtles in the western hemisphere and the second most important nesting beach in the world. 25% percent of all loggerhead turtles and 35% of all green turtles nests in the United States occur in this twenty mile zone. Nesting densities of 1,000 nests per mile have been recorded.
2004 hurricanes destroyed 3670 loggerhead nests and 840 green turtle nests.