Leatherback Sea Turtles Break County Nest Record

Leatherback Sea Turtle
Leatherback Sea Turtle

The 2022 sea turtle nesting season has been eggs-cellent for leatherback sea turtles. The County’s Sea Turtle Conservation Program has recorded an average of 50 leatherback nests per season since 2005. So far, the leatherbacks have laid 92 nests this season, breaking the 2010 season record high of 87 nests!

The leatherback sea turtle is one of the most impressive reptiles in the world. With the ability to weigh over 1000 pounds, this marine reptile primarily eats jellyfish in artic waters near Nova Scotia before migrating 3000 miles to Florida and other tropical beaches to nest during the summer months. Indian River County’s Sea Turtle Conservation Program monitors sea turtle nesting activity along 22.4 miles of sandy

beach. The sea turtle nesting season is from March 1 to October 31. During the nesting season, the County’s Program coordinates an effort to record every crawl from the previous night.

A record-breaking season is encouraging for the species but does not mean that the US Fish and Wildlife Service will change their endangered status. Leatherback sea turtles typically lay multiple nests a season, each containing approximately 75 eggs. On average, one out of 1000 hatchlings will survive to adulthood. It takes 25 to 35 years before the sea turtles are big enough to reproduce. Leatherback populations are listed as “endangered” at the State and Federal levels.

For more information and facts about leatherbacks, visit the FWC website or ECOS Environmental Conservation Online System.

Additionally, nests have begun hatching throughout the County, which means that hatchlings are now susceptible to disorientation from artificial lights. Examples of artificial or man-made lights are porch/walkway lights, open blinds exposing interior lights, flashlights, and bonfires. Hatchlings typically emerge at night. If artificial lights are present, they can distract the hatchlings from crawling toward the ocean, potentially causing it to perish. Local ordinances are in place to restrict lighting on or near the beach at night. To help our beloved sea turtles, please shield and point lights downward on buildings, use amber or red lights, and refrain from interacting with protected sea turtles.

If you encounter a sea turtle and have a concern, please call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission wildlife hotline at 1-888-404-3922, and a qualified individual will respond.

Artificial lighting deters adults from laying nests and confuses hatchlings from finding the ocean.

For more information on the County’s Sea Turtle Conservation Program, please get in touch with Quintin Bergman, Indian River County’s Sea Turtle Environmental Specialist, at [email protected].

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About Tina Hodges 983 Articles
Tina Hodges is a Sebastian native. After graduating from Sebastian River High School, she studied Business Management & Marketing at Indian River State College. Tina worked for Dooney & Bourke for many years before she became our VP of Sales & Marketing & Journalist. Tina joined Sebastian Daily in 2016.