Last year proved to be a very prolific year for sea turtle nesting, producing the largest number of loggerhead nests in 10 years, and local experts are hoping for another banner crop this year. Typically, there’s a down year after a good nesting year because the turtles don’t lay eggs every year. If this year proves to be a good year, it may be the reversal of a downward trend in sea turtle nesting and support the idea that there is a reversal in play.
Leatherback turtles are the first to arrive in late February or March, with Loggerheads following from April through July. The last to nest are the green turtles who show up late May through October. Last year 10,787 loggerheads, 1,575 green turtles and 500 leatherback turtles laid eggs along the Treasure Coast.
If you are lucky enough to witness a sea turtle as she lumbers to shore, keep your distance as you observe one of nature’s greatest gifts. It takes hours for her to haul herself up the dune, dig a hole and deposit nearly 100 ping pong ball sized eggs. She buries them carefully and crawls back into the ocean leaving tire-like tracks in the sand.
After incubating for approximately two months, the hatchlings erupt as a group and scurry to the waters edge following the light of the moon. Many are distracted by nearby lights and head in the wrong direction to be crushed by cars or roasted in the sun. Others will fall victim to raccoons or birds. Those who make it offshore spend the next two years clinging to seaweed and drifting along coastal currents. Thousands drown in shrimp trawls and fishing gear. Only a 1 in 1000 -10,000 babies reach maturity and may live for 20 or 30 years, spending their entire life in the ocean. The only time the sea turtle comes ashore is when the female lays her eggs. It takes about 15 years before a turtle can reproduce but when she does, after traveling thousands of miles, she’ll return to the same beach of her birth.