Around this area so close to the beach and warm Gulf waters, everyone is aware that April through November is turtle season. It has evolved into an almost sacred time when the huge sea turtles come on shore, dig a deep hole in the sand and lay a hundred or more tiny eggs. They cover the eggs and leave nature to take its course.
Modern civilization has placed this species in danger whose life expectancy is on the low side anyway. So man has taken charge to protect these sea creatures and help keep their population alive and strong. The state of Florida issues permits to individuals who are responsible for monitoring turtles on specific stretches of sandy beaches.
Locally, Bruno Faulkenstein holds the state permit for St Pete Beach and Shell Island, and is president of Sea Turtle Trackers, a volunteer organization that monitors and protects seas turtles on St Pete Beach and Shell Key Island. Sea Turtle Trackers works closely with the larger organization of Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) and their staff monitors from Clearwater through Treasure Island.
On their early morning patrols, staff and volunteers will record and cordon off the nests laid and covered during the night by momma turtles. Later in the season, they baby sit the nests to ensure the turtle hatchlings safely reach the sea.
These loggerhead sea turtles weigh about 200 pounds plus and average about 42 inches long and 34 inches wide. Loggerheads are reddish brown on top which is my carapace, and yellowish underneath which is my plastron with a very small tail. Female turtles nest 5-6 times in a season each time depositing circa 100 eggs (something like a ping pong ball); they return in 2-3 years.
Eggs hatch 50-60 days after being laid, all depending on weather conditions, generally at night under the cover of darkness. A major disturbance is artificial lights which can draw young hatchlings to a roadway or beach side pool instead of into the ocean.
So, please if you see nesting turtles or hatchlings on the beach some dark night DO NOT DISTURB, DO NOT TAKE FLASH PICTURES AND DO NOT SHINE LIGHTS AT THEM! Leave the beach clean, flat (running into trash,beach chairs and holes deters turtles from nesting), and dark – preferably quiet too. Thanks!
Original Sally Yoder article modified. To learn more about Sea Turtle Trackers, visit www.seaturtletrackers.org and read their FAQs.