Brevard County, Florida: Best Sea Turtle Nesting Site!
August 7, 2012 5 Comments
We live only 5 miles (as the crow flies) from the best loggerhead sea turtle nesting beach in the Western hemisphere, and the second best in the world! Nesting totals so far this year at Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Brevard/Indian River Counties are as follows: 11,841 recorded loggerhead nests, 962 endangered green turtle nests, and 49 endangered leatherback nests (these massive turtles can weigh a ton). Nesting density here between Melbourne and Wabasso can reach up to 1,000 nests per mile!
Female loggerheads reach maturity at 35 years of age. At that point she will begin laying 4 egg clutches per season every 2 or 3 years on the same beach where she was born. Each nest will contain 100-125 soft rubbery eggs that look like ping-pong balls. She will haul herself onto the beach at night to begin the long process of laying her eggs (it can take hours). She must never be disturbed while nesting, because otherwise she will abandon her nest and drop her eggs in the ocean. Special guided sea turtle walks are permitted under strict supervision and can be scheduled in June and July in Brevard County at: http://www.seaturtlespacecoast.org/volunteer-activites/turtle-walks/ and http://www.conserveturtles.org/barrierislandcenter.php?page=bicprograms
Sea turtle flipper tracks look like tire treads and are easy to spot on the beach during the day. A guide to flipper tracks is at: http://myfwc.com/media/3055670/crawlidentificationguidelines.pdf These distinctive tracks help scientists mark and protect the nests. Hatchlings emerge about 2 months after egg-laying. Gender is a function of temperature – the warmer the sand, the more likely the eggs will become female. In general the baby sea turtles emerge from the sand at night and head toward the sea’s bright horizon. No distracting lights of any kind are permitted on the beaches here at night in summer – it keeps the baby turtles safe. After reaching the water, the baby turtles spend the first few years living in the relative safety of the seaweed in the Sargasso Sea. Later they spend time in near-shore waters and on migration in the Atlantic Ocean.
When needed, the Sea Turtle Preservation Society performs local sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation. For rescue call 321-676-1701 or 321-206-0646; http://www.seaturtlespacecoast.org/information/emergency-information/
Detailed loggerhead sea turtle information is at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/turtles/loggerhead.html
And an especially interesting color night-vision time-lapse video of nesting sea turtles in Florida is at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Yqx24Qqx5M
2015 UPDATE: Totals and statistics for the 20 miles of beach in southern Brevard County’s Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge for the 2015 sea turtle nesting season include the following: (1) first nest was April 13; (2) last nest was September 20; (3) highest number of nests on one day was 264; (4) total number of nests was 11,541; (5) estimated number of eggs laid was 1,248,051 (!); and (6) estimated number of hatchlings reaching the ocean was 1,008,828. Wow!