The 2022 sea turtle nesting season has been eggs-cellent for leatherback sea turtles. The County’s Sea Turtle Conservation Program has recorded an average of 50 leatherback nests per season, since 2005. So far, the leatherbacks have laid 92 nests this season, breaking the 2010 season record high of 87 nests!
The leatherback sea turtle is one of the most impressive reptiles in the world. With the ability to weigh over 1000 pounds, this marine reptile primarily eats jellyfish in artic waters near Nova Scotia before migrating 3000 miles to Florida and other tropical beaches to nest during the summer months. Indian River County’s Sea Turtle Conservation Program monitors sea turtle nesting activity along 22.4 miles of sandy beach. The sea turtle nesting season is from March 1 to October 31. During the nesting season, the County’s Program coordinates an effort to record every crawl from the previous night.
A record-breaking season is encouraging for the species, but does not mean that the US Fish and Wildlife Service will change their endangered status. Leatherback sea turtles typically lay multiple nests a season each containing approximately 75 eggs. On average, one out of 1000 hatchling will survive to adulthood. It takes between 25 to 35 years before the sea turtles are big enough to reproduce. Leatherback populations are listed as “endangered” at the State and Federal levels.
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Additionally, nests have begun hatching throughout the County, which means that hatchlings are now susceptible to disorientation from artificial lights. Examples of artificial or manmade lights are porch/walkway lights, open blinds exposing interior lights, flashlights, and bonfires. Hatchlings typically emerge at night. If artificial lights are present, they can distract the hatchlings from crawling toward the ocean potentially causing it to perish. Local ordinances are in place restrict lighting on or near the beach at night. To help our beloved sea turtles please shield and point lights downward on buildings, use amber or red lights, and refrain from interacting with protected sea turtles. If you encounter a sea turtle and have a concern, please call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission wildlife hotline at 1-888-404-3922 and a qualified individual will respond.
For more information on the County’s Sea Turtle Conservation Program, please contact Quintin Bergman, Indian River County’s Sea Turtle Environmental Specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.