provided by Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife
The majority of Florida nesting for multiple species of sea turtles occurs between March and October 31, though most turtle eggs (especially Loggerhead Sea turtles) do not begin hatching until May. Due to Florida’s climate and myriad of beaches, about 90 percent of sea turtle nesting in the United States takes place on Florida’s beaches. Educating yourself and others about sea turtle nesting is critical to the success of the hatchlings.
Loggerhead sea turtles are the most common sea turtle species found in Florida. During nesting season, these reptiles usually lay between three to six nests per season, approximately 12 to 14 days apart. Each nest can have an average of between 100 to 126 eggs and eggs incubate for about 60 days. Once mature, adults can weigh between 200 and 350 pounds and can reach 3 feet in length. Females typically return to their nesting beach every two or more years, to lay an average of four clutches. Loggerheads are solitary, night-time nesters, and generally prefer high energy, relatively narrow, steeply sloped, coarse-grained beaches for nesting. Interestingly, the temperature of the sand will determine the sex of the hatchlings; cooler temperatures will yield males and warmer will yield females.
After incubation ends (around two months), the eggs hatch and the hatchlings make their way to the water. Sea turtles provide no parental care after laying their eggs and the hatchlings must fend for themselves. This means newly hatched babies are extremely susceptible to predator attacks and human influences. For example, artificial beachfront lighting on developed or heavily commercialized beaches can disorient the hatchlings from finding their way to the ocean and can also disorient nesting female turtles. Additionally, nests can be disturbed by humans if they are not clearly marked. Because most species of sea turtles generally nest well above the high tide line, even when the required distance is significant, this can also increase the chances of human disruption.
Identifying characteristics of a sea turtle nest can include track marks made by the mother’s flippers; a rough, round hole in the sand created by her rear flippers; and eggs inside of the hole that are white and round, resembling golf balls. Educating yourself and others about sea turtle nesting season and being wary of where you step on the beach is critical during this timeframe, to ensure nests are not being disrupted, which increases the likelihood of the clutches’ success.
Here at CROW, our specialized sea turtle barn houses our patients when they are admitted. The reasons these turtles are admitted vary, but a majority come in after being struck by a boat, with monofilament line or fishhook injuries, red tide poisoning (also known as brevetoxicosis) or unknown trauma or systemic disease. In 2022, we have received seven sea turtles.
THIS WEEK AT CROW (2/4-2/11):
There were 28 patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital including 2 black vultures, a laughing gull, two eastern cottontails, two eastern screech owls, a pileated woodpecker, a double-crested cormorant, and an eastern gray squirrel. Recent releases include a yellow-throated warbler and a mourning dove. Check out a full list of CROW’s current patients and recent releases.
Wildlife doesn’t have health insurance! Your donations help cover the costs of medical and rehabilitative care for over 5,000 patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital each year.
Want to learn more about wildlife rehabilitation? Stop by CROW’s Visitor Education Center at 3883 Sanibel Captiva Road.
About Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW)
Established in 1968, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) is a teaching hospital saving the sick, injured and orphaned native and migratory wildlife of Southwest Florida and beyond. Through state-of-the-art veterinary care, public education programs and an engaging visitor center, CROW works to improve the health of the environment, humans and our animals through wildlife medicine. For more information, or to plan your visit, go to www.crowclinic.org. If you find an animal that is in need of help, call (239) 472-3644 ext. #222.