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Archive for the ‘sea turtles’ tag

March 14th, 2012 at 5:00 am

Sea Turtles and Spring Break

In a couple of weeks, I’ll pile the kids in the minivan and drive 1200 miles from Chicago to visit my parents in Florida. Again. Each trip, we try to learn something new, so I did a little research and discovered that March 1 begins the official sea turtle nesting season in Florida.

Sea turtles are ancient creatures, with fossils dating back more than 200 million years to the Triassic period, even before dinosaurs became dominant. About 50,000 turtles from five species live in Florida waters during the March-October nesting season, and Florida is the most important nesting area in the country for loggerheads and leatherbacks.

Sea turtles come ashore to nest. They are awkward on land, and it’s an exhausting process for females to crawl the beach, find a favorable site, dig a nest, lay eggs, and return to the sea. Some sea turtles lay up to 10 nests in a single season.

Scientists believe that only 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 10,000 turtle eggs survive to adulthood. Not very good odds. Humans play an important role in protecting the nesting sites, since we often make our way to Florida beaches at about the same time as the turtles.

Know the Rules

After millions of years, sea turtles are now endangered and are protected by a wide variety of local, state, and Federal laws. Here are some things you should know:

  • No vehicles are allowed on Florida beaches.
  • Artificial lighting can interfere with nesting females and hatchlings; check local ordinances for rules regarding beachfront lighting, and do not take flash pictures or use a flashlight on the beach.
  • It is illegal to take, trap, sell, capture, or collect sea turtles.
  • It is illegal to disturb a turtle nest or to interfere with nesting turtles in any way. Leave adults, eggs, and baby turtles alone.

Known turtle nests are often roped off on beaches, but be aware that you may stumble across one on your own. If you do, or if you find a dead turtle, report it to the life guard or local beach authority. Turtle conservation agencies also request that you:

  • Dismantle all sand castles and fill in any holes that you dig on the beach.
  • Clean up after your visit and dispose of any garbage. Plastic bags and broken balloons are especially dangerous, as they look like jellyfish in the water and turtles can eat them and die.
  • Remove all beach toys, chairs, and umbrellas at the end of each day.

If you are traveling to Florida over the coming months, have a good safe trip, and watch out for turtles.

Related Picture Books

Into the Sea by Brenda Z. Guiberson
One Tiny Turtle by Nicola Davies

Photo credits: baby leatherback turtle by Jolene Bertoldi (ZA Photos); Anna Maria ’06 018 by spakattacks; both via Flickr Creative Commons License

Susan Bearman also writes at Two Kinds of PeopleMike&Ollie: 24-weekers Who Beat the Odds and The Animal Store Blogas well as being a regular contributor to The Chicago Moms and Technorati.

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