Florida's Loggerhead Turtles

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Florida Guide > Miscellaneous

Florida's Loggerhead Turtles

More than 90% of the loggerhead turtle nesting activity in the world occurs on Florida’s beaches, and Florida’s beaches account for one third of the world’s loggerhead turtle population.

In 1978 the loggerhead turtle was listed as a threatened species and strict enforcement to protect them is practiced on the beaches where they nest.

The mating season is from late March to early June and nesting can begin as early as late may and continue as late as September.

Loggerheads nest at night and during the nesting months the females can be seen lumbering out of the sea, sometime between nightfall and sunrise, and up the beach to the cool loose sand to excavate a nest. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes for them to use their back flippers to create a hole suitable for the eggs. The cavity where they lay their eggs will be about 18 inches deep. Each female normally lays a clutch of about 100 ping-pong ball sized eggs. When she has laid all her eggs she then covers them back over with sand, packing it down firmly by thumping her shell over it then throwing sand all around the area with her flippers for camouflage. Her eggs laid, she will turn and head slowly back to the sea and will swim off leaving her eggs to incubate. Loggerheads lay several nests each season, usually about 14 days apart. Studies have shown that they return to nest on favoured beaches in two to three year cycles. It is believed that their preferred beach is the one on which they hatched themselves.

The eggs incubate in the sun-baked sand for 45 to 60 days before the hatchlings (just a little larger than a fifty cent piece) appear. They make their way to the surface as a group and then, usually at night, they head across the beach towards the sea. They emerge at night in response to the cooler temperature of the sand, and head towards the sea, attracted by the light reflected from the surf. In order to stop the baby turtles from being confused, it is very important to observe the rule ‘Lights out for Sea Turtles’ as lights on the beach or along the shore can confuse them and have them heading off in the wrong direction!

If you are lucky enough to see a hatchling, do not try to help it on its way to the water’s edge. It needs to make the journey from the nest to the sea in order to warm up its muscles ready for the long and dangerous journey ahead.

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