St. George Island Sea Turtles

While visiting St. George Island, we hope you have the opportunity to encounter one of nature’s most miraculous events. Our area is a favorite location for several types of nesting sea turtles and we feel very fortunate because the female Loggerhead nests from May 1st through October 31st on our beautiful beaches. On the rare occasion, we are also visited by Green and Leatherback turtles.

This threatened species nests only on subtropical beaches where it is warm enough to incubate their eggs. The turtles emerge from the Gulf between May and August and deposit between 80 – 100 eggs in a nest cavity ranging from 12 inches to 3 feet deep, usually near the dune line. Approximately 60 days after the nest is laid, the two inch long turtles hatch and scurry down the beach to the sea, guided by the light reflected from the water.

Hatchlings swim offshore and in their first several years live in floating seaweed, drifting along the edges of ocean currents. Many years pass until the hatchlings reach maturity. Sea turtles may live for up to 60 years or more and adults weigh an average of 275 pounds and have a shell length of about 3 feet. Only a small percentage of the hatchlings, (approximately 10 in 1000), reach reproductive age.


nesting turtles

We have local volunteers that assist the citizens and guests of St. George Island, too. In fact, during the six month nesting season, the St. George Island Volunteer Turtlers walk the beaches every morning at dawn to search for any new nests. The trained volunteers can identify which type of species came ashore by the tracks left in the sand. 

They can also determine whether turtle actually nested. The nests are then clearly marked with a “Do Not Disturb” sign provided by the State of Florida. A volunteer will check the nest each morning to look for signs of crab predation, surf over wash or inundation, human disturbance, or signs of the nest hatching or disorientation of hatchlings.


turtle-safe beach lighting

Sharing the beach with sea turtles is a great privilege and so we take great measures to protect them. Federal and state laws protect all species of sea turtles and Franklin County enacted a lighting ordinance in 1998 to aid in these efforts. In April, 2015, the ordinance was updated to incorporate more advanced technology.

Lighting near beaches causes hatchlings to become disoriented and wander away from the sea. When this happens, most hatchlings die from exposure, dehydration or being run over by vehicles on nearby roads. Although our vacation homes are fitted with turtle-friendly light bulbs, we ask that you turn off all exterior lights and close the shades each evening at dusk. Please be aware that if you can see house lights during your evening stroll on the beach, the turtles can, too.


"leave no trace" ordinance 

Since 2014, Franklin County has had a year-round Leave No Trace” Ordinance. The rule is designed to keep our beaches clean and safe for both people and wildlife. Highlights include:

All personal property, (including tents, (and frames), chairs, toys, umbrellas and coolers, etc.) must be removed from the beach between the hours of 9 pm and 7 am. UNATTENDED items may be removed and destroyed.

Unattended items may be stored on the beach  overnight if they are moved close to, but not on the toe of the dune or native vegetation, provided that “such items shall not … significantly affect sea turtles.” We STRONGLY recommend that you bring items all the way off the beach. Please!

Holes dug on the beach must be filled prior to leaving the beach.

If you see a crawl, please contact the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission at (888) 404-3922.

Resort Vacation Properties provides more information about our native guests in each vacation home but if you have any questions, please feel free to give us a call. We appreciate your assistance in caring for these natural wonders.


A quick guide to enjoying a turtle-friendly beach

In order to avoid disrupting the nesting sea turtles we suggest the following:

  • Please turn off all exterior lights and close window coverings after dark.
  • Avoid disturbing a turtle that is crawling to or from the ocean.
  • Avoid shining lights on a sea turtle or snapping flash photos.
  • Avoid other nighttime activities, such as bonfires, fireworks, etc. that might prevent sea turtles from coming ashore.
  • Take in personal belongings at night, so a sea turtle won’t get tangled in them.
  • Fill in any holes you dig on the beach.
  • If you are lucky enough to see a turtle; sit quietly in the dark, at a distance, to watch her nest.
  • Discourage others from harassing any sea turtle.
  • If you have the opportunity to see a hatch take place, please do not help the babies to the water. Baby sea turtles must get oriented to their future-nesting beach.

 

for more information, check these sites!

Sea Turtle Conservancy

National Wildlife Federation

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

NOAA Office of Protected Resources

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