The tracks do not tell a lie: the sea turtles are here.



The tracks do not tell a lie: the sea turtles are here.

Over the past couple of days, several false crawls in beach sands, not so much the May 1 spot on the calendar, indicated that sea turtle nesting season is underway.

Turtle patrols on St. Joe Beach, Indian Pass beach, St. Joseph Peninsula and St. George Island all reported tracks indicating a false crawl.

“It was pretty cool that all four major areas had a false crawl at the same time,” said Jessica Swindall, volunteer coordinator for the St. Joseph Peninsula Turtle Patrol.

This evidence is a bit early for the season; a nest was laid on May 2 a couple of years ago but typically the first nests are dug in the second half of the season’s opening month.

“They are here,” Swindall said. “I would expect the first nest any day, really.”

With the arrival of the turtles, Swindall said local turtle patrol groups have also seen an uptick in volunteers, particularly on the peninsula.

As awareness and sensitivity to the turtles broadens, the number of those who wish to be involved keeps new blood circulating in the all-volunteer organizations.

“We have a lot of new volunteers this year,” Swindall said.

The peninsula welcomes the highest concentrations of nesting loggerhead turtles in Northwest Florida each year and the combined output from turtles, green, loggerhead, Kemp’s Ridley, on area beaches last year exceeded 10,000 hatchlings, new lives, into the ocean.

The hope is that numbers will continue to grow, though sea turtles remain so elusive to researchers that much of the breeding cycle remains unknown.

What is known is that turtles tend to return to the place of their birth to nest and lay eggs.

An adult female is believed to lay eggs once every three years or so.

The message from the turtle patrols to visitors and residents alike is to give the turtles wide berth and, please, clean the beaches as you go.

“Keep the beaches clean, keep them flat by filling in any holes or knocking over sand castles and keep it dark,” Swindall said.

Folks should secure turtle safety lights, which shine amber or red, for use on the beach.

The Forgotten Coast Sea Turtle Center in George Core Park also has flashlight filters that fit over the lens and shine in red or amber.

“Dark is best,” Swindall said.

If folks encounter a nesting turtle, while rare turtles have been known to nest in the daylight, “give them plenty of space,” Swindall said.

When encountering a nest that has been identified and staked out and protected with yellow tape, please do not disturb the area, Swindall said.

“It is very important that people give them as much space as possible,” she added.