The nocturnal trek of hatchling Sea Turtles is one of the most interesting and exciting spectacles in the state of Florida and if accomplished properly a stealthy beach walk between the beginning of March and the end of October may allow you to bear witness to this amazing event. Much of the information in the article can be found by visiting the websites of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and Florida Power and Light who do their best to ensure the hatchlings have their best chance and survival during this fragile stage of their lives.
It takes between 50 and 65 days after the mother turtle deposits her eggs in a beachside nest that the hatchlings will emerge by breaking out of their thin eggs buried below the sand and make their struggle to the surface and then onward to the water. This is an especially perilous point in their survival because in addition to the natural predators such as Gulls and Raccoons, man has made it increasingly difficult for the newly hatched turtles to find their way to the ocean. The baby turtles emerge under cover of darkness and are naturally attracted to lights, as it is their instinct to move towards the lighter horizon of the ocean and away from the darkness of the beach and sand dunes. Their ability to get from their nest to the relative safety of the ocean is critical for their survival.
Many of the beaches that have been the natural nesting grounds for Sea Turtles are not close to street lights and developments which interrupt the hatchlings dash for safety causing them to scurry towards the street lamps and lights from windows and other light sources. Those hatchlings that are deceived by the artificial lights are either gobbled up by predators or die from exhaustion and dehydration when the sun comes up. It takes very little light to confuse and mislead the baby Sea Turtles and that is why the Florida Power and Light Company along with Florida Fish and Game and other associations such as the Marine Turtle Trust Fund raise money and awareness through articles such as this to explain how people can help this particular circle of life continue successfully.
It is especially important for those residents of coastal communities to understand how their behavior affects those of the hatching Sea Turtles. Regrettably, even the lights from beach fires can mislead the turtles so it is essential that we learn how to reduce the artificial beachfront light without severely inconveniencing the public or compromising their safety. In Florida during the period between March and October if beachfront residents cannot completely turn off their porch lights or eliminate light from their windows there are actions that can be taken to keep their effect to a minimum. Dark blinds can help for windows facing the beach and some streetlights that are not essential can be turned off during this period. It does not take a lot of light or even direct light to cause problems for the hatchlings. Some people have apply dark tinting to their windows and turn off pool lights while setting their security lighting systems on motion sensor mode. Its not rocket science; any type of light, direct or indirect can affect the bay turtles march to the ocean.
If you have any questions about the baby Sea Turtles March to the sea, you can just ask it as a comment here or request a pamphlet (where much of this information came from) by visiting www.fpl.com or www.myfwc.com. If you want to witness this miracle for yourself, it is best to do it with a group or tour that has experience in this type of hike or adventure with as little affect on the Turtles as possible.
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