Sea Turtle Season is something to experience on Florida’s Space Coast. Even though beaches aren’t accessible to humans at this time, there are still 72 miles of coastline for these incredible marine animals to make their nests and lay clutches upon clutches of eggs. In 2019 more than 30,000 nests were counted on the beaches of Brevard County alone. This year several Space Coast organizations are keeping us virtually updated with classes, live streams, and exciting turtle nest updates! From the northernmost reaches of the Canaveral National Seashore to the beaches of the Sebastian Inlet, here are 5 things you need to know about Sea Turtle Season on the Space Coast.
Where Can I learn about Sea Turtles Virtually?
Brevard County Barrier Island Center – The Barrier Island Center is located near the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge and on a good day is a place where visitors can learn all about sea turtles. With interactive exhibits and a beautiful beach and boardwalk, it’s a must-stop on your next Space Coast Vacation. They’re staying busy though, offering weekly Sea Turtle Academy Classes geared for grades K-6. Follow their Facebook page for updated events and live videos from the caretakers!
Brevard Zoo – The Brevard Zoo helps rehabilitate sea turtles found in distress at their Sea Turtle Healing Center. Follow their page to see videos of the Center and learn about the unique needs of their shelly patients!
Sea Turtle Preservation Society – For the latest news on nesting season, updates on new nests, and other sea turtle news, the Sea Turtle Preservation Society is the page to follow! Learn about turtles and their habitats from the comfort of your home! Located in Indialantic, STPS hosts a wide range of events, exhibits, presentations, and, of course, turtle walks to educate the public. This is a great way to incorporate a bit of education into your vacation without it feeling like “school.” Proceeds allow STPS to continue their incredible work to ensure the safety and preservation of these beautiful sea turtles.
When and What is Sea Turtle Season?
Sea turtle season starts on May 1 and goes through November 15. It is a time where sea turtles nest and hatch and what an extraordinary process it is. From egg to hatchling, a sea turtle must endure the delicate process of development in order to make its way from land to sea. Each species has a different egg incubation period (the time it takes the turtle to hatch), but generally, it can take anywhere between 45-75 days. And an interesting fact is that it’s the temperature that determines if the hatchlings are male or female. Warmer temperatures will result in female turtles, whereas colder temperatures produce males.
What Types of Sea Turtles Make the Space Coast Home?
The Loggerhead, Leatherback, and Green Turtles call the Space Coast home. Each species has its own unique features. The Loggerhead is the largest of the hard-shell turtles and is named for its massive head and strong jaws. Its shell is heart-shaped with a reddish-brown color. It is the most common turtle in Florida. The Green Turtle has a wide, smooth shell and is named “Green” because of its body fat, not its shell, which is browner in color. Green turtles have a non-retractable head that is pretty small in comparison to its large shell and can be upwards to 700 pounds. The Leatherback is the largest of all sea turtles at up to 7 feet long and in excess of 1,000 pounds. Leatherbacks take on on the longest migration distances between breeding and feeding at around 3,700 miles each way. The Leatherback is considered a soft-shell turtle because its inky-blue shell is a bit flexible and rubbery to the touch. And every so often, Florida’s Space Coast is graced with the Kemps Ridley Turtle. Kemps Ridley are some of the smallest of the sea turtles only reaching up to 2 feet and no more than 100 pounds. Its shell is hard and greenish-gray while its belly is off-white or yellow. The Green, Leatherback, and Kemps Ridley Turtles are considered endangered species.
How do You Keep the Sea Turtles Safe?
- To ensure the safety of the sea turtles, there are specific measures you can take whether you see one on your own or while you are on a turtle walk.
- Do not touch or disturb nesting sea turtles, hatchlings, or their nests.
- If you dig or see a hole in the sand, refill them before you leave the beach.
- Tear down sandcastles, but take a picture of it first to remember your masterpiece.
- Do not walk on the sand dunes. Use designated crossovers and walkways and mind the signs
- Don’t litter!!! Dispose of trash properly including cigarette butts.
- Only use amber-colored lights when walking on the beach at night. Bright white lights are harmful to sea turtles. No photographing or videoing these creatures.
- If you see a sea turtle, whether injured or dead, contact the Sea Turtle Preservation Society at (321) 206-0646, a 24/7 hotline.
Where can You Participate in a Sea Turtle Walk?
There are a few ways that you can sign up to take a Turtle Walk on the Space Coast when travel restrictions are lifted. Our 72 miles of coastline means that there are plenty of opportunities for you to witness a nesting female! You can either call or reserve a spot online at one of these three organizations.
- Friends of Sebastian Inlet State Park: Reservations open May 1
- Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge: Reservations are from June-September
- Sea Turtle Preservation Society: Reservations open May 1
Sea Turtle season on the Space Coast happens every year. So plan now for a vacation you won’t ever forget!