Lights out, turtles still hatching

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. -- Leatherback nesting tends to wrap up in June. Loggerheads are winding down now. But baby greens and other sea turtle species still busting from their shells need darkness.

So officials urge coastal residents to continue to keep their beach lights off through the remainder of the nesting season, which ends Oct. 31.

Nighttime lighting can disorient hatchling turtles, luring them inland instead of seaward after emerging from their beach nests. As a result, they often die from dehydration, get run over or become prey for raccoons, crabs or ants.

So far, so good.

"There have not been very many disorientation reports so far this season," said Llew Ehrhart, professor emeritus at University of Central Florida.

"The whole south end of the county, people are really doing well," Ehrhart said of compliance with the turtle lighting rules.

From May 1 through Oct. 31, all indoor and outdoor lights visible from the beach must be shielded, repositioned, replaced or turned off from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Bright beach lights, flashlights, camera flashes, video recorders and other types of artificial lighting aren't allowed, either.

Disturbing a sea turtle, its nests or hatchlings is illegal. Those who violate Brevard's marine turtle lighting ordinance face fines of up to $500 and six months in county jail.

Loggerhead sea turtles nests at the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge — considered a key barometer for statewide nesting trends — just passed 12,000 nests, Ehrhart said, a bit better than an average year.

Eggs in most nests will hatch by Oct. 31, although green turtles may continue hatching.

"Our hatch rates have been good," Ehrhart said.

If you find a dead, sick, or injured sea turtle, call FWC's 24-hour Wildlife Alert Number at 1-888-404-3922. Be prepared to answer the following questions: Exact location of the animal? Is the turtle alive or dead? Approximate size of the turtle? Is the turtle marked with spray paint? (This may indicate that the turtle has been previously documented). Location of the closest access point to the turtle? If the turtle is alive, please be prepared to stay with it until help arrives.

Contact Waymer at 321-242-3663 or Follow him on Twitter@JWayEnviro


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