What is a false crawl?
A false crawl occurs when a female turtle comes ashore at night to lay her eggs, then turns around and goes back into the ocean without digging a hole for her nest. Several false crawls could result in her depositing her eggs into the ocean which reduces sea turtle populations.
Reasons for false crawls include obstructions such as construction debris, trucked in river dirt or sand of poor quality and hard armoring of our shoreline (sea walls and geotubes). Nesting sea turtles are also deterred by artificial lighting.
Female turtles only nest every two to three years, so it’s a significant loss if a turtle cannot lay her eggs.
The following sea turtle facts are provided by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC):
When do sea turtles nest?
The main nesting months run from May to October, but there are many exceptions to the rule. Leatherbacks have been known to start as early as February, and depending on water temperature, hatchlings emerge well into the winter months.
Do hatchlings need a full moon to find the ocean after they emerge from their nests?
This is a myth. Hatchlings emerge from their nests at all phases of the moon and successfully find the ocean.
How do hatchlings know the direction of the ocean when they emerge from their nests?
Sea turtles are born with the instinct to move toward the brightest direction. On a natural beach, this direction is the light of the open horizon.
How long do sea turtles live?
Sea turtles can live 40 to 60 years or more.
How long does it take before the eggs hatch?
Sea turtle eggs have an incubation period of about two months.
How many nests are laid in Florida?
Along the Florida coast, sea turtles annually make between 40,000 and 84,000 nests.
How many nests does each female sea turtle lay?
Females nest every two to three years, laying several nests on sandy beaches. After digging a hole and depositing about 80-120 eggs, the females fill in the hole with sand and camouflage the nest before returning to the sea.
How many species of sea turtles are listed as endangered or threatened?
All five Florida species are listed as either endangered or threatened. The federal Endangered Species Act lists the green, leatherback, hawksbill, and Kemp's ridley turtle as endangered. The loggerhead is listed as threatened. This makes it illegal to harm, harass, or kill any sea turtles, their eggs, or hatchlings. It is also illegal to import, sell, or transport turtles or their products.
How many species of sea turtles are there in Florida?
Five species of sea turtles can be found in Florida:
How much do sea turtles weigh?
Sea turtles range in size from the 75-100 pound Kemp's ridley to the 1,300 pound, 8-foot-long leatherback.
What do the hatchlings do after they leave their nests?
After the two-month incubation period, the turtle hatchlings all dig out of their nest at the same time, a process that can take several days. As a group, they then leave their nest at night and head directly for the sea. This first trek "imprints" their home beach into the hatchlings. Once grown, the turtles will return to lay their nests on the same beach.
What is a hatchling's chance of survival?
Only about one in 1,000 turtles survive to adulthood. Hatchlings die of dehydration if they don't make it to the ocean fast enough. Birds, crabs, and other animals also prey on the young turtles.
What threatens sea turtle survival?
Natural Predation-Many predators such as crabs, ants, raccoons, and birds target turtle eggs and hatchlings. If they are lucky enough to reach adulthood, sea turtles are relatively immune to predation, except for the occasional shark attack.
Human Predation-Though most countries have laws against harvesting sea turtle eggs for food, the laws are not well enforced. Adult turtles are also harvested for meat, and their shells are made into jewelry and souvenirs.
Commercial Fishing-Entanglement in fishing nets is a major contributor to the death toll of juvenile and adult sea turtles. In the past, shrimping nets killed more than 50,000 turtles annually. Now, U.S. shrimpers are required to put Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) on their trawl nets.
Ingesting Plastic and other litter and debris-Thousands of sea turtles die each year from eating and becoming entangled in plastic bags and balloons floating in the water. While releasing helium balloons into the air is a common way to celebrate and event, the balloons end up drifting in the oceans where sea turtles mistake them for one of their main food sources, jellyfish.
Artificial Lighting-Nesting sea turtles look for dark, quiet beaches to lay their eggs. Lights from buildings along the beach distract and confuse the females as well as the hatchlings. When the young turtles emerge from the nest at night, they are drawn toward the lights instead of the water. A single light can cause hundreds of misdirected hatchlings to be killed by automobiles on nearby roads and parking lots, dehydrate in the morning sun, and increase their chance of being killed by predators like birds, crabs, and even cats.
Coastal Armoring-Sea walls, sandbags, and other barriers built to protect beachfront property from erosion block female turtles from ideal nesting grounds. The developing coastline is rapidly encroaching on suitable nesting beaches.
Beach Nourishment-Another way to combat property erosion on beaches is to bring in truckloads of sand. If the sand is of a different consistency or is too compacted, the nesting behaviors of turtles can be drastically altered. If the renourishment is done during nesting season, there is also a possibility nests will be buried too far underground or be run over by trucks.
Pollution-Everything from oil spills to fertilizer runoff can contaminate the ocean habitat of the sea turtles, killing their food sources and causing terminal diseases.
Who should I call if I find a stranded turtle?
Call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Division of Law Enforcement at 1-888-404-FWCC or *FWC from your cell phone.