Sea turtle nesting season comes to an end
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.
Loggerhead turtle hatchlings crawl toward the ocean.