The rare wonder of watching dozens of baby sea turtles emerge from their nest and make their way to the shore is truly one of the most magical things you’ll ever see, and it’s all about timing.
They pop out of the sand under the cover of night and follow the moonglow into the waves.
Sea turtles have a dangerous (if adorable) first few minutes in the new world. Those who are dedicated to the preservation of these endangered animals work along Pensacola Beach and Perdido Key to ensure their safety and as their reward they get to witness one of the most amazing journeys in nature.
With a little luck and great timing, you can, too!
Female sea turtles begin to come ashore at night along Pensacola Beach and the Gulf Islands National Seashore (GINS) in May to lay their eggs. The incubation period lasts about two months, and nests begin hatching in July and continue through late October.
Hatchlings usually wait until the sand temperature cools to hatch, so most nests emerge after dark. Once out of the nest, the little turtles scramble to the water and swim offshore where they will live for several years in seaweed beds drifting along the Gulf Stream until reaching adulthood and returning back to the coastal waters of their birth.
Loggerheads are the most common sea turtle along the beaches of Northwest Florida. There are three other sea turtles that also nest on our beaches: the Green, the Leatherback and the Kemp’s Ridley, the rarest of all sea turtle species. The Kemp’s Ridley nests during the day and many times the hatchlings emerge during daylight hours.
Nearly all species of sea turtle are classified as endangered, and some, like the Kemp’s Ridley, are critically endangered.
Baby sea turtles face many obstacles when first leaving their nests—such as raccoons, crabs, birds and fish. Sea turtle hatchlings also use the light of the moon to guide themselves to the water, but can get distracted by bright lights from beach homes, condos and businesses facing the beach.
That’s why it’s so important to always be respectful and considerate of nesting sea turtles and hatchlings to ensure that future generations get to enjoy them too.
Here are some helpful tips:
When walking the beach at night during turtle season, remember to use a red flashlight. Sea turtles and hatchlings are less likely to be attracted and disoriented by red lighting.
Don’t touch or harass a nesting sea turtle or baby hatchlings as they leave their nest. Watch quietly from a distance and never shine lights or use flash photography, which could disorient them.
FILL IT IN and KNOCK IT DOWN
Fill in large holes, knock down sandcastles and other obstacles to leave the beach flat for nesting sea turtles.
LEAVE NO TRACE BEHIND
Remove all tents, canopies, furniture, toys and other obstacles from the beach every night.
If you see a sea turtle or hatchling that is sick, injured, in distress or deceased, please call the local authorities and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission 24-hour hotline at 888-404-3922.
Gulf Islands National Seashore provides endless opportunity for solitude and relaxation and miles of unobstructed views and access to the Gulf.
Tourists who’ve traveled to Pensacola Beach to experience its natural beauty and the creatures that inhabit it now have even more to discover when they take advantage of the Footprints in the Sand Eco-Trail.
The Pensacola Bay Area has been loved by explorers since 1559. Now you, too, can embark on your own adventure and discover our destination on the Explore Pensacola GeoTour! Using a GPS-enabled device, instead of a compass, you can become a modern-day Ponce de Leon in search of hidden treasure.
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