Sea Turtles at Don Pedro Island

An underwater view of a sea turtle underwater.

Don Pedro Island is part of a chain of barrier Islands along the Gulf of Mexico. Lined with mangrove forests on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other, the island helps protect the Lemon Bay Aquatic Preserve, a unique ecosystem of mangroves, seagrass and oyster beds, and one of Florida’s most productive ecosystems. Barrier Islands such as Don Pedro Island serve an important role in protecting mainland coastlines during storms and providing habitat for a large variety of wildlife.

The 1.3-mile shoreline along the gulf side of the island is a critical nesting site for sea turtles. Every year around May, sea turtles make their way onshore to build their nests. Female sea turtles dig a hole in the sand using their hind flippers and lay up to 120 eggs in single nest. However, only about 80% of the eggs will hatch and about half of that will survive. Hatchlings face many threats as they leave the nest and head to the ocean– from predators such as coyotes and racoons to hazards created by humans such as discarded nets and artificial lighting. Only about one turtle per female in her breeding lifetime is likely to survive to adulthood.

Park staff and volunteers work hard to ensure that sea turtle nests are protected during their nesting season from May to October every year. If you walk along the gulf shore of Don Pedro Island, you may encounter marked sea turtle nests. Each nest is also numbered, and its location recorded for tracking and research purposes. Nests are monitored closely until the eggs hatch. Don Pedro Island is a popular site for nesting turtles and averages around 200 sea turtle nests each year.

When visiting the island, please keep a look out for any sea turtle nests. Do not disturb nests or young sea turtles when hatching. We are hoping these natural wonders will be visiting the park for many years to come!