GULF BREEZE — Biologists at Gulf Islands National Seashore have identified the first sea turtle nest of the season at the federal park.

The nest was discovered early Monday morning.

Each year, beginning in mid-May and ending in late summer, the seashore provides some of the best nesting habitat for several species of sea turtles, most commonly the loggerhead but occasionally the Kemp’s ridley and leatherback.

Park staff and volunteers monitoring park beaches daily for nesting and hatching activity as the season progresses. Once a nest is discovered, it is cordoned off and a "do not disturb" sign is posted.

Park officials remind residents and visitors to minimize artificial light at night. Adult and hatchling sea turtles are distracted by the lights that draw them inland and away from the Gulf of Mexico. The disoriented turtles often die from dehydration, are preyed upon or crawl onto roads or parking lots where they are run over.

“By turning off excess outdoor lights and installing sea turtle-friendly lights, we can all help to protect nesting and hatching sea turtles,” Superintendent Dan Brown said.

If someone sees a sea turtle at night, keep a distance and turn off all lights off, including flashlights and flash photography.