May marks the beginning of sea turtle nesting season on many of the Panhandle's white-sand beaches. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is asking beachfront property owners and beach visitors to help nesting turtles and hatchlings by turning off or shielding lights that are visible from the beach at night.
“Making an effort to keep our beaches dark at night is one of the most important things you can do to help sea turtles,” said Robbin Trindell, head of the FWC sea turtle management program. “Even small artificial lights from a house, a flashlight or a cellphone camera can confuse female sea turtles and their hatchlings and cause them to wander off course.”
Use these practices to be more sea-turtle friendly:
After sundown, turn off any lights not necessary for human safety. Buildings and other structures along the beach that need lights for human safety can be lit with long wavelength amber LED bulbs in a downward-directed, well-shielded fixture that is not visible from the beach. Remember to close shades or curtains.
On the beach at night, don’t take flash photos or use bright cellphones or flashlights.
Sea turtles are protected and must be respected. Stay back and give sea turtles space if one is spotted on the beach at night. Don’t touch a nesting turtle because it may leave the beach without nesting if disturbed. It is illegal to harm or disturb nesting sea turtles, their nests, eggs or hatchlings.
Before leaving after a day at the beach, fill any holes dug in the sand. Beach furniture, canopies, boats and toys left behind on the sand can become obstacles that block nesting and hatchling turtles.
Stay away from nests and hatchlings. Do not handle hatchlings crawling toward the water. Any interference or disturbance by people, such as getting too close or taking flash photos, increases the chances the hatchlings will get confused, go in the wrong direction and not reach the ocean quickly. That makes them vulnerable to dehydration, exhaustion and predators. As with all wildlife, watching from a distance is best.
People should report sick, injured, entangled or dead sea turtles to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline: 1-888-404-3922, #FWC or *FWC on a cellphone, or text Tip@MyFWC.com.