07 May After 9, It’s Turtle Time!

Sea turtle nesting season is underway! The first sea turtle nest of the season was found on Saturday, April 27 on the East end of Sanibel. TheCity of Sanibel, in partnership with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF), is asking all residents and visitors to do their part in protecting these threatened and endangered species.  On Sanibel, nesting and hatchling emergence typically occur between May 1st and October 31st, although monitoring now begins on April 15th per Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission guidelines.

The nesting ritual of the loggerhead sea turtle is one of the most remarkable natural phenomena occurring on Sanibel’s Gulf beaches.  This natural process has happened on Sanibel for centuries and our eleven miles of Gulf shoreline have more nesting activity than any other beach in Lee County.  Sought by predators and susceptible to dehydration, sea turtle hatchlings have only a one in one thousand chance of survival.  You can help sea turtles to nest successfully by leaving the beach as undisturbed as possible.

All sea turtle species are listed and protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. You too can provide a safe beach and protect sea turtles by following theses simple guidelines:

  • Turn off or shield lights near the beaches.  Artificial beach lighting can inhibit female sea turtles from nesting and disorient hatchlings.  Most beachfront lighting issues can be addressed by turning off all unnecessary lights, repositioning or modifying light fixtures, or closing blinds and drapes.
  • Remove furniture and other items from the beach and dune area, when not in use.  Items left on the beach overnight including beach furniture, toys and trash may provide barriers to nesting or result in entanglement and predation of hatchlings.
  • Level all sandcastles and fill any holes dug during play to ensure sea turtles don’t become trapped.  Please leave the beach as you found it, so that sea turtles or their hatchlings are not hindered on their way to nest or to the water.
  • Pick up all trash.  Sea turtles mistakenly eat debris, especially plastic, which results in death.
  • Never approach or disturb nesting sea turtles or their hatchlings.
  • Please do not use flash photography or flashlights around sea turtles or their hatchlings.  Cover all flashlights with an approved sea turtle friendly filter. Be sure to turn the flashlight off immediately if a turtle is spotted. White light disturbance causes disorientation and false crawls.
  • Honor the leash law.  All dogs on the beach must be on a leash (less than 8-feet in length) and not allowed to disturb nesting turtles or hatchlings.
  • Report sick, injured, entangled, or dead sea turtles to the SCCF Sea Turtle Hotline: 978-SAVE-ONE (978-728-3663).

As a reminder, the City’s beachfront lighting standards are enforced year-round Gulf-front property owners should make sure that their properties are compliant with the City’s sea turtle protection ordinances to ensure that artificial lighting from their property does not illuminate the beach (Sanibel Code Section 74-181—74-183, Section 126-996—126-1002).  An easy way to test if your property complies is to stand on the beach on a moonless night and look seaward. If you can see your shadow cast towards the water, there is too much light behind you.  This light can deter female turtles from nesting leading to “false crawls” and disorients hatchlings as they emerge from the nest, causing dehydration and death.

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