Volusia County, FL – A rare Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle has nested on the beach earlier than expected in Ponce Inlet Monday.
70-degree ocean temperatures and a hotter winter than normal are suspected to have caused the early nesting, which is not unusual. Nesting season for all sea turtles begins on May 1 and continues through October 31. Other sea turtles have also nested early on the beach in southern Volusia County.
In the past 20 years, the earliest date of nesting for sea turtles was in 2012 on April 3rd and the latest was in 2004 on May 12.
Kemp’s ridley sea turtles have only ever nested in Volusia County 10 times since 1988. Only 1 Kemp’s ridley has been recorded in the county so far in 2017 with just 1 in 2016, 2 in 2014, 1 in 2012, 1 in 2010, 1 in 2005, one in 1998 and 2 in 1996.
This turtle is critically endangered and is recognized as the rarest sea turtle species that nests in Florida according to the Volusia County Environmental Management habitat conservation plan manager Jennifer Winters.
Since there are already turtles nesting and the season officially begins in a few days, beachgoers are reminded that they must turn off or cover lights so that they are not shining towards the beach. This is because the turtles leave the water at night to lay their eggs on the beach.
“Artificial lighting is a human-made threat we can correct with minimal effort,” says Winters. “Bright lights can prevent females from nesting, and they can confuse hatchlings, leading them away from the ocean and into the streets or storm drains. By simply redirecting lights away from the beach and turning them off when not in use, beachfront residents can help sea turtles survive.”
Beachgoers are asked to stay at a distance from any sea turtles or hatchlings they may see. It is best to be calm and quiet when watching the turtles to ensure their safety. If you suspect that a turtle is in danger of being hurt, you are asked to immediately tell a lifeguard, beach safety patrol officer or call 888-404-3922 to reach the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
To learn more about Volusia County’s sea turtle conservation efforts, call 386-238-4668 or go to www.VolusiaSeaTurtles.org. For more information on lighting rules, call 386-238-4773.
For video of the sea turtle, go to the Volusia County Beaches Facebook page.
Photos courtesy of Volusia County.
Copyright Southern Stone Communications 2017.