Sea turtle nesting season on Navarre Beach began this month, with the first mother turtles expected to arrive by the start of June.
That means it is once again that time of year when we all work to share this beautiful beach with one of its most ancient inhabitants: sea turtles.
Our beach is home to four species of threatened or endangered sea turtles including greens, loggerheads, kemps ridleys and leatherbacks.
The trek to shore can be exhausting for the mommy sea turtles as they drag themselves from the water to the beach. This is the only time in their lives outside of hatching from an egg when sea turtles will naturally come ashore. Then the mom digs a hole in the sand more than a foot deep and lays between 45 to 110 eggs.
Once laying is complete, the turtle carefully buries her eggs before dragging herself back into the Gulf of Mexico. That’s tough work when you only have flippers to work with!
After a few months the nests then hatch, releasing hundreds of ping pong ball sized baby turtles into the gulf.
But they face many challenges.
Artificial lights are the biggest threat to sea turtles. Both nesting moms and hatchlings use white light to orient themselves while on land. In a completely natural setting, the brightest white light would be the moon and the reflection of it on the Gulf of Mexico, guiding the turtles to safety.
But in a world filled with artificial lights from homes, pools and roadways, that is not the case.
They can get disoriented by the light pollution and get seriously hurt, but our condos are taking a proactive approach to protecting our turtles.
Summerwinds Condominiums and Beach Colony have partnered with the National Resource Damage Assessment and Navarre Beach Turtle Patrol to place more than 600 turtle-friendly amber lights on our balconies and pool deck.
These lights are designed specifically to light the way for humans without confusing the turtles. Neat, right?
You can help protect our local sea turtles by joining #TeamTurtle. This means shutting off all unnecessary lights, especially those facing the beach, and closing blinds and window curtains tight to keep the light inside.
You can also help by filling in holes dug on the beach, toppling sand castles when you leave for the day, making sure to take all your belongings off the beach at night and respecting all federal, state and local wildlife laws. That includes the warning signs and roped off areas where sea turtles have nested.
It’s also important that if you get the super exciting and very rare treat of watching a sea turtle nesting remember to stay back, do not use flashlights or flash photography and stay quiet.
If we all work together, we can make sure that the thousands of baby sea turtles that hatch each year along Navarre Beach all make their way home to the Gulf.
If you spot turtle hatchlings headed in the wrong direction, or if you see a sea turtle being harassed or in distress contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission immediately. Call 1-888-404-FWCC or call *FWC from your cellphone.
To learn more about these magnificent creatures and to meet one up close, come check out the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center. Book your vacation today at navarrelistings.com, and go #TeamTurtle!