Sea tur­tle nest­ing sea­son comes to an end

South Florida Sun-Sentinel Palm Beach (Sunday) - - LOCAL - By David Flesh­ler South Florida Sun Sentinel

Sea tur­tle nest­ing sea­son ended this week, as light­ing re­stric­tions in most coastal cities ex­pired un­til next year.

Dur­ing the sea­son, in an ancient rit­ual that’s per­sisted through the trans­for­ma­tion of beaches by condo tow­ers and ho­tels, thou­sands of fe­male log­ger­head, green and leatherback tur­tles crawl ashore at night to dig holes and de­posit 100 or so eggs. When the eggs hatch, the baby tur­tles scurry to­ward the ocean to evade birds, crabs and other preda­tors.

The sea­son that ended Wed­nes­day was an “av­er­age” one i n B rowa rd County, with 2,605 nests, not count­ing those laid on the beach at Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula John­son State Park, which is counted sep­a­rately, ac­cord­ing to a news re­lease from the county.

Of these, 2,498 were log­ger­head tur­tles, 89 were greens and 18 were leatherbacks — the largest species, which can reach 2,000 pounds.

Broward’s un­ex­cep­tional sea­son fol­lowed a record one last year, which saw tur­tles dig 3,567 nests.

Palm Beach County does not count the nests on all beaches, which al­ways re­ceive many more vis­its from nest­ing sea tur­tles than the beaches of Broward or Mi­ami-Dade coun­ties.

Al­though c o mp l e t e counts for the county were not avail­able, the Log­ger­head Marinelife Cen­ter in Juno Beach, which counts nests in Juno, Jupiter-Car­lin and Te­questa beaches, re­ported 11,952 nests, with 10,978 log­ger­heads, 820 greens and 154 leatherbacks.

Nest­ing sea­son runs March 1 to Oct. 31. Dur­ing that time, coastal cities re­quire res­i­dents and busi­nesses to dim or shield lights to avoid dis­ori­ent­ing hatch­lings. Hatch­lings in­stinc­tively crawl to­ward light, an in­stinct that served them well when the bright­est light was moon­light on the ocean.

But the lights of res­i­dences, ho­tels and restau­rants can draw them in­land, where they end up dead in park­ing lots and on roads.

dflesh­ler@sun-sentinel.com, 954-356-4535

BLAIR WITHERINGTON/FWC FISH AND WILDLIFE RE­SEARCH IN­STI­TUTE

Log­ger­head tur­tle hatch­lings crawl to­ward the ocean.

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