Sea Turtle Nesting
Click here for the 2012 Sea Turtle Nesting season numbers.
Sea turtle nesting season in South Florida is March 1st through October 31st each year. Every morning at sunrise, Dr. Kirt Rusenko and his staff of Marine Turtle Specialist survey Boca Raton’s five mile stretch of beach to look for turtle tracks made the night before. Once a turtle track is located, the sea turtle specialists determine what species was responsible (leatherback, loggerhead, or green) and if she actually nested or just made a “false crawl”. Female turtles (as well as hatchlings) are very sensitive to lights and activity on the beach at night. Sometimes a female turtle will emerge from the water but will be frightened back before she can begin to lay her eggs.
Loggerhead (left) and Green turtle (right) crawls. Leatherback crawl.
When a nest has been laid, the sea turtle specialists record the location and mark off the area with orange flagging tape. Every morning, the marked nests are checked for signs of predation and other activity. About two months after a nest is laid, it will hatch and roughly one hundred tiny sea turtle hatchlings will make their way to the water. This usually happens at night, so the sea turtle specialists look for hatchling tracks on their morning surveys. They mark each nest that has hatched. Three days after a nest hatches, the turtle specialists excavate the nest and take an inventory of what was inside. Hatched shells, infertile eggs, dead embryos, dead hatchlings and live hatchlings stuck in the sand are all counted and recorded to assist with the state-wide monitoring of sea turtle populations.
Marine Turtle Specialists excavating a nest in the rain. Leatherback hatchling found alive at the bottom of a nest.
Live hatchlings retrieved from excavated nests are brought back to Gumbo Limbo and kept in a dark, quiet room until evening. This keeps the hatchlings calm so they do not expend energy during the day. The hatchlings are released on the beach at night during one of our Hatchling Release Programs. These presentations, as well as our annual Turtle Walks, are a wonderful way for the public to learn more about these endangered animals and offer a chance to view these animals up close.
Loggerhead hatchling headed for the ocean.