2 Jul 2019
From April 15th to October 31st, beachgoers will be seeing yellow tape and stakes all over the beaches of Sanibel, but it’s not a bunch of crime scenes. Sea turtles (particularly Loggerheads) have been coming onshore to lay their eggs, and the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) places markers to provide a safe zone for the nests. This is believed to be the first of three cycles of laying and hatching during the season.
Over this past weekend, we have heard reports of hatchlings emerging from these nests, making their way to the Gulf. It’s a natural and spectacular event, but for the hatchlings, it’s very hazardous, as they have only a 1 in 1000 chance of survival. So there are several things you need to know:
If you see one or more of these posted nests, please keep your distance from them to prevent disturbing or damaging the eggs. You’ll see there is a cage grating covering the spot, as well. That’s ok; it’s there to prevent predators (such as coyotes) from snacking on the eggs, but the cage is open enough for hatchlings to fit through when the time comes.. Some of the nests have cameras to monitor activity in the area, so poachers and vandals beware! Don’t forget to keep pets on a leash to prevent them from disturbing or destroying nests themselves.
When enjoying the beach, be sure not to leave any beach equipment out overnight. Also, any sand sculptures or holes should be knocked down / filled in and smoothed out. Any non-flat surface can cause the hatchlings to delay their path, making them susceptible to predators or heading away from the water (leading to dehydration and death). Be sure to pick up all trash, especially plastic. A plastic bag can be mistaken by a sea turtle for a jellyfish, making it fatal when swallowed. As they say, “Leave nothing but footprints.”
After dark (generally 9:00 pm), any lights in your house or condo that can be seen from the beach should be turned off or shaded. Many hotels and buildings disable patio lights facing the beach for this reason. It may disturb a mother turtle and prevent her from approaching the spot where she was hatched to lay her own eggs. Also, hatchlings usually emerge at night and follow the light of the moon to the Gulf. If they see your light, it could cause them to turn in the wrong direction to a fatal mistake.
If you walk the beach at night, please do not use flashlights, especially if you happen to see a nesting turtle or emerging hatchlings, as white light will disorient them. Use an infrared filter if you have one. And please do not use flash photography. Observe nesting or hatchlings from a distance. Never approach or touch a sea turtle or hatchlings.
Lastly, if you should see a sick, endangered, or dead sea turtle or hatchling, please call the SCCF Sea Turtle Hotline at 1-978-SAVE-ONE (1-978-728-3663).
We hope you have a chance to enjoy this part of a Sanibel summer and have a Shell of a Good Time! So be sure to check our website for availability for summer and fall. Book Direct and Save!