Florida: First sea turtle season nest spotted
Although the sea turtle nesting season officially starts May 1 and ends Oct. 31, a leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) nest was discovered earlier this week by a beach walker and reported to sea turtle patrol.
Volunteers of the St. Augustine Beach Sea Turtle Patrol marked off the area, and it will be monitored by volunteers and county staff until it the nest hatches. Thankfully, the nest is located in the conservation zone affording protection from beach driving and parking.
Beginning May 1, St. Johns County staff will close gates at 7:30 p.m. and reopen them at 8 a.m. to allow for nesting sea turtles to have a safe nesting beach throughout the night.
Last year, volunteers recorded 540 nests with more than 41,309 hatchlings produced, a 22 percent decrease from the 2017 season of 691 nests. The earliest recorded nest in 2018 was a loggerhead (Caretta caretta) on May 2 and leatherback on May 9.
The beaches of St. Johns County are home to several species of endangered or threatened sea turtles.
Residents and visitors have a special opportunity and responsibility to protect these magnificent creatures and their vulnerable nesting sites as they return each season to nest along the beaches.
St. Johns County officials are asking residents, visitors and businesses to help protect the natural habitat by observing all nesting season laws and regulations.
In addition to restrictions on vehicular beach traffic between May 1 and Oct. 31, all beachfront properties are required to reduce their impact by eliminating interior and exterior lights, which may disrupt nesting sea turtles.
Volleyball court lights at St. Johns County Pier Park will turn on at sunset and turn off at 9 p.m. during this time.
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