Sea Turtle Nesting Season on Sanibel Island

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Sanibel Island’s white sandy beaches and gorgeous sunsets attract tourists and residents throughout the year; however, this time of year the serene island also attracts another group of popular beachgoers for the next six months – Loggerhead sea turtles.

Sea turtle nesting season officially kicks off May 1 and we’ve got the information you need to safely share that beautiful beach with the four legged creatures and their new hatchlings.

Protecting Sea Turtles

For starters, sea turtles and their hatchlings are a threatened and endangered species, which means humans need to follow the rules to make sure sea turtles can lay their eggs and the hatchlings make it back into the Gulf of Mexico safely. Bottom line: It’s a big deal in Florida to leave the nests and the turtles alone on the beach.

sea turtle nesting

You must leave both sea turtles and sea turtle nests alone during sea turtle nesting season.

How long is the season?

Sea turtle nesting season starts May 1 and runs through Oct. 31. Once the baby sea turtles hatch when the moon is bright, they make their way back to the Gulf by following the moon’s light to start their annual journey that can span oceans. More than 100 local volunteers scour the beach at dawn looking for signs of turtle tracks and nests they can mark to keep track of the number of nests and hatchlings that come ashore.

sea turtle

A sea turtle’s annual journey can span oceans. Females always return every year, though, to lay eggs where they were born.

How many eggs are in a nest?

A mother turtle will return several times to the same beach every season to lay nests. Each sea turtle nest contains more than 100 eggs. Just one in 1,000 hatchlings make it to adulthood. Sea turtle hatchlings remember their roots too. When female hatchlings become adults in 25 to 30 years, they too will return to the same beach they were born to lay their own eggs. Pretty cool, right?

What are the rules I need to follow during sea turtle nesting season?

In order to ensure as many hatchlings as possible return to the Gulf of Mexico from their nests, residents and visitors sharing the beach with sea turtles should:

  • Observe nesting turtles from a distance and remain quiet if you come across them nesting during the evening hours.
  • Shield or shut off lights that are visible from the beach so hatchlings aren’t confused when they’re following the moon’s light on their way to the Gulf.
  • Close drapes after dark.
  • Stack furniture and keep it off the beach so turtles have places to nest at night and don’t get tangled in the furniture on their way to and from the water.
  • Fill in holes that might trap hatchlings on their way to the water.
  • Make sure trash is off the beach.

What’s not allowed during sea turtle nesting season on the beach?

From May 1 through Oct. 31, beachgoers are prohibited from:

  • Approaching nesting turtles or hatchlings, making noise or shining lights on them
  • Using flashlights or fishing lamps on the beach
  • Picking up hatchlings that are headed for the water
  • Going anywhere near nests that have been roped off by turtle watch volunteers
  • Encouraging turtles to move while nesting
  • Using fireworks on the beach

Ordinances are in place and fines can be imposed if you don’t follow the rules.

Each sea turtle nest contains more than 100 eggs and just one in 1,000 hatchlings make it to adulthood.

Each sea turtle nest contains more than 100 eggs and just one in 1,000 hatchlings make it to adulthood.

Book Your Sanibel Island Visit Now

Following these rules helps us safely share the beach with sea turtles and other amazing wildlife. If you’d like to experience this amazing season up close, it’s time to rent a fully furnished condo at Royal Shell Vacation Rentals.

While you’re here, rent a boat to cruise the Intracoastal Waterway, go fishing or take a charter to Port Sanibel Marina to view the island and its natural beauty from the water. If you’d like to book an eco-tour to go shelling and learn more about the island while you’re here, give us a call at 239-437-1660 to plan your trip today.