Environment

It’s a baby boom for sea turtles as nests pop up all over

A loggerhead turtle hatching makes its way to the ocean. Turtle nesting and hatching season is underway in the Keys.
A loggerhead turtle hatching makes its way to the ocean. Turtle nesting and hatching season is underway in the Keys. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

All signs point to the ongoing sea-turtle nesting season in the Florida Keys as a loggerhead baby bonanza.

“This season has seen some of the highest nesting counts in the Keys in a number of years,” Sue Schaf, a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said Friday. “In general, it’s been great.”

“In Key West, a loggerhead nested at the Pier House [Resort], which is very unusual,” she said. “Smathers Beach has seen a lot of nesting.”

Initial reports along Sea Oats Beach and the adjacent Sunset Beach on Lower Matecumbe Key, which usually get some nests, indicate 2016 “has been one of the best season in years for that area,” Schaf said.

In the Dry Tortugas, the most active area for Keys turtle nesting, loggerheads seem to be going for a record, National Park Service biologist Kayla Nimmo said earlier this month.

“We have had 113 loggerhead turtle nests on Loggerhead Key [as of Aug. 3], which is higher than in any previous years,” Nimmo said. “I think we may have set a new record.”

Loggerheads may dig three or four nests per season, Schaf said. Typically nests hatch about 50 days after eggs are laid.

Last year, green sea turtles set a Dry Tortugas National Park record 147 nests. That number has been much lower in 2016, as expected, Nimmo said.

“Turtles nest every two to three years so we have high numbers in odd years and low green nest numbers in even years,” she said.

Total nest counts will not be fully compiled until after the hatch season ends. Nests are expected to continue hatching through September and into October.

The FWC reminds residents and visitors:

▪ Remain at a distance from nesting sea turtles and hatchlings.

▪ Remove chairs, canopies, boats and other items from the beach at night. Items may block movement of turtles and hatchlings.

▪ Turn off or shield lights along the beach to prevent hatchlings from getting confused and going toward lights on land instead of heading into the ocean.

Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206

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