Sea Turtle Nesting Season is Here

A green sea turtle swims underwater at John D MacArthur Beach State Park

Many of the 100 miles of beaches protected by Florida State Parks provide nesting habitat for sea turtles.

As nesting season begins, park staff and biologists are preparing to monitor nests and keep them safe. The majority of nesting takes place between March and October.

At major nesting sites like John D. MacArthur Beach State Park and Cayo Costa State Park, park staff and volunteers locate turtle crawls on park property. These crawls, or signs of turtle movement in the sand, help gauge nesting activity in certain areas. Scientists and volunteers record the crawl locations and, when possible, identify the species and check whether the crawl resulted in a nest. Check out this story to learn more about counting sea turtles in Florida State Parks.

A graphic showing the number of turtle nests on state park beaches 2018-19. 5463 loggerhead, 2515 green, 44 leatherback, 3 kemp's ridley.

Staff and volunteers also perform the important task of patrolling nest sites to make sure they are not being disturbed. Often, nests in high-traffic areas are marked so that they’re easier to see and avoid. Patrols also help staff protect nests from predators, report stranded or injured turtles and teach others about Florida’s sea turtles.

Why do Florida State Parks staff and volunteers work so hard to protect sea turtles?

Simply because many factors work against endangered turtles, including loss of nesting habitat. Hatchlings, which use moonlight to navigate from the nest to the shore, can be misled by artificial lights. Baby turtles are small and vulnerable to predators on land and at sea.

Florida Park Service biologist Scott Tedford researches and protects nesting sea turtles at state parks in South Florida and the Florida Keys. Tedford says there are simple things that everyone can do to share Florida's beaches with sea turtles and hatchlings:

  • Give nesting adults and their hatchlings space and take care not to disturb them.
  • Turn off artificial lighting near beaches at night during nesting season and use turtle-friendly lights approved by FWC.
  • Properly dispose of food items to decrease predation from wildlife.
  • Properly dispose of debris like fishing line, netting and plastics.
  • Keep obstacles such as beach furniture off the beach during nesting season.
  • Participate in beach cleanup events.
  • Avoid buying items derived from sea turtles.
  • Buy a turtle license plate to raise money for the protection of sea turtles.
  • Learn more about sea turtles and share what you learn with others!

Wildlife events in Florida State Parks

This article was published in the Real Florida ℠ Connection, the Florida State Parks e-newsletter. Sign-up to get updates and stories from your state parks the first week of every month.