Yesterday, October 31, was officially the last day of the 2023 Turtle Nesting Season. We still have 9 nests on the beach and will continue to monitor them until they are all hatched and/or nest success evaluations have been completed. As we do every year, we'd like to take this time to thank everyone involved in helping us in our mission to protect and conserve sea turtles. We appreciate everyone's help...volunteers who patrol the beaches each morning, beach-side residents who ensure their lights are off, beach-walkers who pick up litter on the beach, good Samaritans who call to report turtles in need, nest adopters and those making donations, and so many more! It's so uplifting to be part of a community with such big hearts ready to lend a helping hand. So, thank you for this year and we'll see you again next year!
~The Volusia/Flagler Turtle Patrol
October 1, 2023
Record Breaking Year!
We have just begun the last month of the 2023 Turtle Nesting Season which will officially end on October 31. Nesting has slowed down significantly but we are still patrolling every day and watching over nests yet to hatch on our beaches. We are happy to report that the FWC has released preliminary statewide totals for nesting sea turtles and it has been a record-breaking year for both loggerhead and green sea turtles. The totals below were calculated with data through August 31, 2023. When the season ends our totals will be even higher!
Loggerhead Sea Turtle: 133, 414 nests (previous record was 122,707 for the entire 2016 season) - RECORD BREAKER!
Green Sea Turtle: 74,308 nests (previous record was 53,102 for the entire 2017 season) - RECORD BREAKER!
Leatherback Sea Turtle: 1,748 nests
Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle: 10 nests
~The Volusia/Flagler Turtle Patrol
What's Keeping Turtle Patrol Busy?
So what's keeping our volunteers so busy? Glad you asked!
New Nests. Mama turtles continue to come to our beaches to lay their eggs. We patrol the beaches each morning, find their nests and stake them off to keep them out of harm's way. We also record various data such as species of turtle, location of nest, incoming vs. outgoing track, whether obstacles were encountered, etc.
False Crawls. Some mama turtles come to shore but return to the ocean before laying their eggs. They may have been spooked by something or unable to find a suitable spot to nest.
Nest Relocations. If a sea turtle lays her nest in certain areas defined by the FWC (such as below the daily high tide line where nests will be inundated with water every day or in front of storm water outfall), we are allowed to relocate the nest to a drier location (following specific guidelines) to increase the hatchlings' chance of survival.
Emergences. Hatchlings are emerging from their nests (usually at night) and making their way out to the sea. Volunteers can tell this has happened by looking for hatchling tracks leading from an emergence hole in the nest area to the ocean. Occasionally, hatchlings become disoriented and can travel long distances in a direction other than to the water. Volunteers spend time following the tracks to try to locate the hatchlings.
Nest Success Evaluations. Several days after hatchlings emerge, a Nest Success Evaluation is performed to determine the success of each nest. How many eggs hatched? How many did not? How many hatchlings perished? Did a predator or plant roots invade the nest? etc.
Hatchling Release or Rehab. Occasionally we either find hatchings on the beach that did not make their way out to the ocean with their siblings, or beachgoers alert us to the fact. If the hatchlings are strong enough to be released, we point them toward the ocean to ensure they get there safely. If they are weak or injured, we bring them to the Marine Science Center for evaluation and rehabilitation.
And more... You never know what an early morning ride on the beach will bring. Sometimes we find injured wildlife (shorebirds, etc.) that need to be transported to the Marine Science Center, sandcastles that need to be knocked down, beach furniture left unattended on the beach which could become an obstacle to nesting turtles, and hatchlings, and more.
Our volunteers are amazing with everything they have to accomplish each morning. If you see them on patrol, please give them a smile, wave or thumbs up to let them know that they're appreciated!
August 1, 2023
Nesting Mamas & Emerging Hatchlings
The 2023 Sea Turtle Nesting Season is in full swing and we're having a great year. The turtles are keeping our volunteers busy as mama turtles continue to come to shore and hatchlings are emerging from nests laid earlier in the season. As of July 31, 2023 Volusia County alone* has had a total of ~11,900 eggs hatched from 1,390 sea turtle nests (1,193 Loggerheads, 188 Greens, 5 Leatherbacks, and 4 Kemp's Ridleys).
* Volusia/Flagler Turtle Patrol includes 25 miles of beach in Volusia County, 18 miles in Flagler County, and 2.5 miles in St. Johns County.
July 1, 2023
Happy Independence Day!
July 4th is around the corner. While this can be a fun and exciting time for us to celebrate our independence, it can be a dangerous and scary time for sea turtles and other wildlife. Loud noises and bright lights from fireworks can scare mama turtles and prevent them from laying their eggs. In addition, July 5 is notorious for the massive amounts of debris left on the beaches by those celebrating Independence Day the night before. Small debris can be ingested, making animals sick or killing them. Large debris can create obstacles that trap or injure sea turtles.
We hope that you have a wonderful holiday with family and friends, but please celebrate responsibly and leave the beach the way you found it. Remove trash, lawn furniture and umbrellas. Fill in holes and knock down sandcastles. Please kind and keep the turtles in mind! Thank you :)
~ The Volusia/Flagler Turtle Patrol
Want to do more?
Many areas have local beach clean-ups on July 5 to restore the beach back to its natural state. We've listed a few below or you can reach out to someone in your area to see how you can help!
Flagler Beach July 5 at 9:00 am, meet at the "A" frame in front of the Flagler Beach Pier.
Volusia County July 5 from 8:00 - 10:00 am, meet at Winterhaven Park, 4589 S. Atlantic Ave, Ponce Inlet. (Bring a bucket or trash bag, grabbers and gloves if you have them.)
June 1, 2023
Welcome Mama Turtles!
We're happy to report that the 2023 Turtle Nesting Season, which began on May 1, is off and running! Our dedicated volunteers are patrolling the beaches each morning and finding turtle crawls and nests. There have been a few bumps along the way, like the rough seas and high tides recently which washed out some of the nests. There's also been construction occurring on the beach (especially in our southern range) repairing damaged buildings from last year's hurricanes. Mama turtles have been maneuvering around equipment and debris, but our volunteers are being diligent to mark their nests clearly so that they won't be disturbed as construction continues. Due to both issues, which are taking up more time than usual, turtle adoption nest assignments are running late. We apologize and appreciate each one of you who has adopted a nest this season. Our priority is keeping the turtles safe and, we promise, we'll get adoptions assigned as soon as we can! It's par for the course to run into some bumps each season and it seems we've found ours early.
You know that sea turtles are coming to shore to nest, but do you know what they do once they get here? A female turtle can spend two hours or more on shore laying her eggs.
She makes her way onto the beach, hopefully to a point beyond the high-tide line so that her eggs won’t be taken away with the tide.
She digs a “body pit” by rotating her body and using her flippers.
She cups her rear flippers to grab sand and dig out an egg chamber, or hole, in which she will lay her eggs.
She “drops” a few eggs at a time until she lays between 50 and 200 eggs (depending on the species of turtle).
She uses her rear flippers to fill in the egg chamber with sand and uses her whole body to gently pack it down.
She camouflages her nest by using her flippers to throw sand in all directions around the nest to confuse predators about the location of the eggs.
Finally, a tired mama turtle returns to the sea for some much-deserved rest.
Phew! It's a lot of hard work, but it will all be worth it when the baby turtles hatch later in the season!
~Volusia/Flagler Turtle Patrol
May 1, 2023
2023 Turtle Nesting Season Begins!
Today marks the official start of the 2023 Turtle Nesting Season! We are pleased to let you know that mama turtles have already begun nesting on our beaches. Our volunteers will be patrolling each morning looking for turtle crawls (tracks left in the sand by mama turtles) from the night before. They'll locate nests and cordon them off with wooden stakes and ribbons to keep them safe. As you visit the beach, especially during early morning and evening hours, be on the lookout (but keep your distance). You never know what you'll encounter during nesting season!
Tips for Sharing the Beach
Leave the beach the way you found it. Mama turtles can get trapped/injured in lawn chairs or stuck in holes dug on the beach. When leaving, remove obstacles that get in their way by taking everything with you when you leave, filling in holes, and knocking down sandcastles.
Pick up your trash. Mama turtles may think your plastic bag is a yummy jellyfish an eat it, making her sick. Look around before you leave and place your trash (and trash left behind by others) in the trash/recycling bins.
Lights out. Lighting along A1A, beach bonfires, and flashlights can confuse mama turtles, discouraging them from coming ashore to lay their eggs. If they are already on shore, they may become disoriented or be frightened away.
Do not disturb nesting females. If you see a turtle coming ashore to nest, do not approach! Give her space and don't make loud noises or quick movements. If she gets scared and returns to the ocean, she may dump her eggs in the sea and the hatchlings will perish.
Call for assistance. Turtles have been coming to shore to lay eggs for thousands of years without needing any help from us. However, if you see bystanders crowding or harassing a nesting turtle, please call the FWC for assistance at 1-888-404-FWCC (888-404-3922).
May 1, 2022
2022 Turtle Nesting Season
04-13-2022 Leatherback Turtle Crawl & Nest
Today marks the first day of the 2022 Turtle Nesting Season!The season runs from May 1 through October 31. Mama turtles are beginning to come to shore to lay their eggs on our beaches. During nesting season our volunteers patrol the beach each morning to look for turtle crawls (tracks left in the sand by mama turtles as they make their way onto the beach to lay their eggs). Volunteers are trained to locate turtle crawls, determine if a nest was laid, collect detailed information about the crawl/nest (which will be reported to the FWC), and clearly mark the nest so that its location is known for further evaluation and so that it remains protected and undisturbed by beachgoers.
We are excited to report that we have already had6 Sea Turtles come to shore to lay eggs this year (3 Leatherbacks and 1 Loggerhead in Volusia and 2 Leatherbacks in Flagler)! Leatherbacks are the first to lay eggs each season. They are the largest of all the sea turtles and can weigh up to 2,000 pounds. A single track (as seen in the photo above taken by one of our volunteers) is enormous compared to the tracks of other species of sea turtles and can easily span 5 feet in width. To learn more about the Leatherback and all of the species of sea turtles found on Florida's beaches, click here.