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Sea Turtles Love Flagler County

Frank Gromling
Frank Gromling

Flagler County’s beaches attract all kinds of visitors, from vacationing humans to large sea turtles. May 1st to October 31st is sea turtle nesting season in Florida and our beaches already have signs that sea turtles are arriving.

The first nest of the year was made by a leatherback turtle on April 20th in Beverly Beach. After that, another leatherback nested in the north end of the county, followed by the first loggerhead nest at North 18th Street in Flagler Beach. The three sea turtle species that nest the most in our county are loggerhead, green and leatherback, followed by the rare hawksbill and Kemp’s ridley.

Only mature female turtles come ashore to deposit 80-120 eggs in the sand. In about 55 days, turtle hatchlings dig their way to the surface for their first breath of air. They make a mad dash to the ocean while facing natural and man-made obstacles, both on the beach and in the ocean. Natural predators, such as fire ants, raccoons, ghost crabs, snakes, and dogs off-leash, may have taken a toll before the eggs hatched. Then, sea birds and crabs join target the bite-size turtles as they scramble to the ocean, where fish and other creatures await. Man-made obstacles are marine debris (nets, buoys, plastic) and chairs, umbrellas, and tents left overnight on the beach.

Scientists say there is a one in 5,000 chance that a female hatchling will live long enough to return to shore to make her own nest 20+ years later.

Here’s how you can help sea turtles:

* Do not leave chairs, umbrellas or canopies on the beach over night.

* Fill in holes made in the sand by children playing on the beach.

* Pick up trash, especially plastic, on the beach and place it in proper receptacles.

* Follow lighting laws in beachfront properties.

* Flashlights, fireworks and open fires should be avoided on the beach because they disorient turtles and hatchlings. Beverly Beach and Flagler Beach prohibit bonfires and campfires at night during sea turtle nesting season.

* Do not disturb or handle any sea turtles, their eggs or nests. Endangered species are protected by county, state and federal laws with fines up to $20,000.

If you encounter an injured, sick or dead sea turtle, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (888-404-3922).

If you’d like to adopt a turtle nest or volunteer for the Volusia Flagler Turtle Patrol, visit www.turtlepatrol.com and reach them at 386-763-0977 or seaturtlepatrol@bellsouth.net.