Sea Turtles found on the Sandy Beaches of SW Florida
As you stroll our beautiful beaches in SW Florida, do not be surprised to encounter multiple sea turtle nests staked out by our local organizations as pictured below.
What Type of Sea Turtles are found in SW Florida
Loggerhead (Caretta Caretta) – The name originating from their large block-like heads, these are the most common sea turtles found in SWFL. Their average size is about 36” in length and estimating a weight of almost 300lbs! The shell of the this sea turtle is typically reddish brown and their skin ranges from yellow to brown. They have four flippers each with two claws and have large powerful jaws to crush their prey/food. You can usually decipher whether they are male or female by the size of their tail; the males being longer and the females being shorter. Their lifespan is between 47-67 years. This species has been on earth for 110 MILLION Years! To the left is a recent picture of a sea turtle laying her eggs on Bonita Beach in Bonita Beach Club!
What do Loggerhead Sea Turtles eat?
The hatchlings or baby sea turtles are omnivores; eating food of both animal and plant origin. The adult sea turtles are carnivores; eating meat or flesh. The most common foods they eat are crabs, horseshoe crabs, conchs, clams, and mussels. During migration through the deep sea they eat jelly fish, squid and flying fish!
Whom are the predators of the Loggerhead Sea Turtles?
Birds, snakes, ghost crabs, raccoons and ants are among the few predators or the Loggerhead eggs/nests. Crabs, lizards, snakes and birds are among the predators that prey on the baby turtles during their migration to the sea. Large sharks, seals and killer whales tend to pray on the large adult sea turtles.
When Do Sea Turtles Nest?
The loggerhead sea turtles usually make their way to the beautiful sandy beaches in SWFL between the months of May through October to nest. The female loggerheads will come to shore in the middle of the night and lay about 50-200 eggs. 60 days later, the eggs begin to hatch, usually this too happens in the middle of the night. The baby sea turtles use the moon to guide themselves back to the water. On average there are about 67,000 nests built each year in Florida from this incredible creatures! Pic attached is a nest staked off on Bonita Beach in front of the community named Hickory Pointe.
What is the Reproduction Process of Loggerhead Sea Turtles?
The female Loggerheads migrate to warmer waters for their mating grounds. The age of sexual maturity is between the years of 17 and 33. Their mating periods have been documented to last more than 6 weeks! Once a male finds a female they begin to circle one another, there are often numerous males around at this time and they may struggle with one another for the female. When they have chosen one another, the male then mounts the female. He uses his claws to grip on to her shoulders, lays his head on her shell and then uses his tail to bring their reproductive organs together. While this is happening other males may still attempt to attack the male to win the female over. From the act of mating, the females ovulate eggs which are fertilized by the males. Once they are done mating, the female returns to the SAME beach where she herself was born to lay her babies! The females are able to lay multiple clutches and once this happens she is able to re-mate once or several times and this could take place by multiple males. They are known to mate one to seven times during their nesting season every two to three years.
Some Quicks Facts:
- Temperatures during the incubation process determine the sex of the hatchlings!
- Unfortunately only 1 in every 1,000 hatchlings survive to adulthood. This is mainly due to natural predation, human intervention and pollution
- Turtle nests can be found almost anywhere along SWFL beaches, they are easily identified by bright yellow caution tape!
Are Loggerhead Sea Turtles an Endangered Species?
In 1978 the Loggerhead Sea Turtles were listed on the Endangered Species Act and are under Federal Protection. Due to their migratory nature, the conservation efforts are severely compromised once they leave the United States waters. Loggerheads have also long been hunted for leather production and their eggs. High threats also include; marine pollution, accidental capture, disease, and their hatchlings suffering from disorientation from beachfront lighting.
Loggerheads are protected by National Laws as well as international treaties and agreements. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife along with NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service also conduct regular monitoring of the Loggerheads population.
What Can I do to Help Protect the Sea Turtles on the SWFL Beaches?
- Do Not Disturb nesting females! They can be easily scared during this time and may, “false crawl”, having them return to the ocean without nesting.
- Be sure to give their nests plenty of space! Keep all of your personal belongings far from their nests. ALSO, be sure to fill any holes when you leave the beach to ensure no hatchlings are caught.
- Keep the Beaches Clean! Please be sure to keep our beaches CLEAN! Plastic bags are a huge threat to Sea Turtles as they often mistake them for jellyfish. This may cause them to starve or die. Be sure to pick up all of your fishing gear! Sea Turtles can get caught on nets and lines and even swallow and choke on hooks.
- Minimize any Lighting on/near the SW Florida Beaches in the Evenings! Remember that hatchlings use the light of the moon to guide them back to the Ocean. There are laws prohibiting certain lighting on the beach to not disorient the hatchlings.
10 Fun Facts:
- The Loggerhead Sea Turtle appears on the $1,000 Colombian Peso coin.
- In the U.S., the Loggerhead Sea Turtle is the official state reptile of South Carolina and also the state saltwater reptile of Florida.
- The Loggerhead Sea Turtle is the most populated of all the Ocean Turtles.
- Their shell is split into two segments; the shell and the plastron
- The males usually feature wider heads and a wider less vaulted shell than the females
- They spend most of their lives in the open ocean and/or in shallow coastal waters.
- Loggerheads usually remain in waters where the temperature is between 56-82 degrees.
- Loggerheads spend an average of 85% of their day being submerged, the males are most active.
- The average duration of a dive is between 15-30 minutes, however, its been documented for up to four hours.
- They cannot retract into their shell like other Turtles.
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