If I see a sea turtle emerge from the water, does it mean she is nesting?
This is a very frequently asked question during Sea Turtle Season. According to Sea Turtle experts, the only reason for a sea turtle to come out of the water is to NEST.
However, experts add that approximately 50% of the time a female turtle returns to the Gulf without laying a nest. There are several reasons this might happen. Sometimes she is spooked by human activities on the beach; or by artificial light. These are referred to as “false crawls.” She uses valuable energy needed for nesting—which is it is so very important to keep the beach DARK, CLEAN and FLAT.
According to the County’s Sea Turtle Weekly update, for the week of May 19 – 25, Sea Turtle monitors reported 20 false crawls in Marco. Yesenia Olvera, a sea turtle monitor for Marco’s beaches, is concerned with the large number of beach towels left in front of the hotels along with trash such as plastic cups, beverage cans and bottles. Olvera remarked, “There isn’t supposed to be any beach chairs, towels and trash left on the beach overnight.”
The momma turtle crawls out of the water and looks for a place away from people, other animals and light—far from the water so the nest stays dry. She digs a deep hole with her back flippers, lays the eggs and then covers the nest with sand to protect the eggs. Once she has laid the eggs, the momma turtle’s job is done, and the eggs incubate in the sand for about 60 days. She does not come back to check on the nest, though she may return to the general area a few more times to make a new nest.
What Can We Do to Encourage Sea Turtles to Lay Eggs on Marco’s Beach?
- Keep the beach CLEAN – Leave the beach as you found it or better!
- Keep it DARK – It is important to minimize artificial beach lighting during the sea turtle nesting season.
- Keep it FLAT – Fill in your holes. It can trap momma sea turtles coming to nest and hatchlings trying to navigate their way to the water.