Florida – It’s peak sea turtle hatching season in FL, and the FWC says “Hands off!”
During September and October, the last months of FL’s sea turtle nesting season, large numbers of sea turtle hatchlings will be digging out of their nests and making their way into the ocean.
“Some Florida beach-goers are unaware that sea turtle hatchlings should be watched from a distance and left undisturbed,” said Dr. Robbin Trindell, who leads the FWC’s sea turtle management program. “Even well-meaning attempts to rescue sea turtle hatchlings can do more harm than good. And digging into a sea turtle nest, entering a posted area, or picking up a sea turtle hatchling to take a photo also are against the law.”
The hatchlings struggle to survive – digging out of the nests can take days. Once they make it to the surface they’re vulnerable to predators and anything that distracts them from what should be a straight shot to the sea could leave them lost, exhausted, or dehydrated on the beach.
Any visible unnatural lights (like lights on houses, hotels, condos, businesses, and even lights from a cell phone or camera) can disorient nesting adult females, but they’re even more harmful to the hatchlings. Once they make it to the surface, they’re experiencing vision for the first time and they use the reflection of star-light and moon-light to orient themselves towards the water. If they see an unnatural light, they may become confused and head towards land.
“The best way to help hatchlings is to turn off any artificial lighting on the beach at night or at least keep it shielded,” said Trindell. “If you see hatchlings, watch from a distance and never shoot flash photos.”
If you see a hatchling that’s stranded, wandering in a road or parking lot, heading away from the water, or if you see a dead hatchling, call FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 1-888-404-FWCC, or dial *FWC or #FWC on a cellphone. Even if you see a hatchling in one of these situations, contact the FWC before you take action. According to Trindell, “to touch or handle a hatchling without a permit from FWC is a violation of state and federal law.”
To put things in perspective, only 1 out of 1,000 hatchlings survive to reach adulthood. So if you see a sea turtle hatchling, keep in mind that little reptile could be the 1 that makes it – but only if you let it.
For more information on sea turtle nesting and hatchlings, go to MyFWC.com.
Photo courtesy Heiko Kiera and Shutterstock.com.
Copyright Southern Stone Communications 2016.