To the Editor:
It’s sea turtle nesting season in Florida, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is sharing guidelines on how you can make a difference for these endangered marine reptiles.
As hatchlings begin to appear on beaches throughout the state, please remember that it is important to keep your distance from them and their nests. Never handle hatchlings crawling toward the water. Any interference or disturbance, such as getting too close or taking flash photos, increases the chances the hatchlings will get confused, go in the wrong direction and not reach the ocean quickly. That makes them vulnerable to dehydration, exhaustion and predators. As with all wildlife, watching from a distance is best.
We know that sea turtle hatchlings are cute and understand that it might seem tempting to touch them, but people often don’t realize the impact their actions can have. What may seem like a harmless selfie with a hatchling could prove deadly to that turtle. If sea turtle hatchlings are removed from their nests before they are ready, they are less likely to survive.
There are many ways you can make a difference for Florida’s sea turtles. After sundown, turn off any lights not necessary for human safety. Use long- wavelength amber LED lamps for lights that must stay lit, and shield lights so that they are not visible from the beach. Remember to close shades or curtains.
No flash photos, please. On the beach at night, don’t take flash photos or use bright cellphones or flashlights. This can cause turtles to become disoriented and crawl away from the ocean, putting them at risk.
Sea turtles are protected and must be respected. Stay back and give sea turtles space if you see one on the beach at night. Don’t touch a nesting turtle, because it may leave the beach without nesting if disturbed. Remember, it is illegal to harm or disturb nesting sea turtles, their nests, eggs or hatchlings.
Clear the way at the end of the day. Beach furniture, canopies, boats and toys left behind on the sand can become obstacles that block nesting and hatchling turtles. Fill in any holes dug in the sand.
Before taking any action, please report sea turtles that are sick, injured, entangled or otherwise in danger to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline: 1-888-404-3922, #FWC or *FWC on a cellphone or text Tip@MyFWC.com.
Sea turtle nesting season continues through October. Learn more about Florida’s sea turtles at MyFWC.com/SeaTurtle.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conseration Commission