A seasonal closure through the end of September, to camping on the beaches of Panther Key, Coon Key, and Round Key within 10,000 Islands National Wildlife Refuge is now in effect due to nesting sea turtles and shorebirds. Human influences, including campfires, tents, and boats can disrupt nest site selection and safe emergence of hatchlings.
Southwest Florida is threatened loggerhead and green sea turtles face many natural and human induced obstacles to survive from hatching on beaches to reproductive age in marine waters. In addition to heavy beach traffic that may deter nesting sea turtles, mothers and hatchlings often encounter obstacles created by unknowing visitors. When leaving the beach, please remove all gear and trash, knock down sand structures, and fill in dug holes that may obstruct sea turtles and their hatchlings. Hatchling sea turtles rely upon the shine of ocean water, light of the moon, and the bright horizon to find their way to marine waters. Artificial lights can seriously confuse hatchlings, causing them to travel toward housing security lights or the shine of a flashlight. To help sea turtles, please remember to turn off beachfront lights during the nesting season and be sure to use red, night-time friendly lights if you are on the beach after dark.
10,000 Islands National Wildlife Refuge biologists monitor sea turtle nesting and hatchling emergence on the Refuge’s keys throughout the summer months. Nesting females have begun to arrive on Southwest Florida beaches and hatchling emergence is expected to begin mid-summer. Biologists monitoring sea turtle nesting activities collect important reproduction data and construct predator exclusion cages around known nests to establish a protective barrier against predators like raccoons. Refuge biologist are also monitoring vulnerable nesting shorebird colonies for species such as least terns.
To learn more about shore bird species, sea turtle conservation or visitor activities at 10,000 Islands National Wildlife Refuge, visit the refuge website at https://www.fws.gov/refuge/ten_thousand_islands/. If you have questions about this seasonal beach camping closure, please call refuge headquarters at 239-657–8001.