First sea turtle nests of the season are at Gulf Islands National Seashore

Special to Gannett/USA TODAY NETWORK

GULF BREEZE – Biologists at Gulf Islands National Seashore (GUIS) have identified the first sea turtle nests of the 2021 season at Gulf Islands National Seashore. 

A total of two loggerhead nests were identified May 27, one in the Fort Pickens Area and one in the Perdido Key Area.

Biologists at Gulf Islands National Seashore are keeping an eye on two new loggerhead sea turtle nests, one in Gulf Breeze, and another in the Perdido Keys.

Each year, between May and October, the seashore provides ideal conditions for sea turtle nesting. Several species of sea turtles, including loggerhead, Kemp’s ridley, and green sea turtles, nest within the seashore. During the 2020 nesting season, a total of 59 nest were discovered.

The main factor that impacts nesting sea turtles at GUIS is artificial lighting.

“Adult and hatchling sea turtles can easily become disoriented by artificial light sources like flashlights, headlights, and sky glow from neighboring cityscapes,” said Jennifer Manis, GUIS biologist. “Artificial light draws turtles away from the Gulf of Mexico and inland. These disoriented turtles then often die from dehydration, predators, or vehicle strikes.”

This loggerhead turtle nest at Perdido Key has been roped off for its protection.

Lights out

By turning off excess outdoor lights and installing wildlife-friendly lighting fixtures, visitors and locals can protect both nesting and hatching sea turtles. If you see a sea turtle at night, keep your distance and turn all lights off.

Visitors can help promote the “lights out” campaign by displaying the park’s free sea turtle magnet that can be picked up at any GUIS entry station.

Park staff and volunteers are monitoring park beaches daily for nesting and hatching activity as the season progresses. For more information about sea turtles at GUIS, visit www.nps.gov/guis/learn/nature/seaturtle-species.htm.