Biologists at Gulf Islands National Seashore discovered the first sea turtle nest of the season Wednesday morning at Gulf Islands National Seashore.
It has been identified as a loggerhead sea turtle. Sea turtle nesting season occurs between May 1 and October 31 each year along gulf coast beaches.
In honor of the start of turtle season, the park’s newly redesigned turtle magnets will be available for visitors to pick-up starting May 25.
Magnets are available at the Fort Pickens Discovery Center and Entrance Station, Park Headquarters in Gulf Breeze, and the Perdido Key Entrance Station.
This year’s magnet features a slightly redesigned turtle and messaging reminding everyone to turn out the lights for sea turtles. Displaying turtle magnets on vehicles throughout the area reminds every one of the importance of helping sea turtles survive and that it is the time of year to turn off outdoor lights.
The seashore provides nesting habitat for several species of sea turtle, most commonly the loggerhead sea turtle but Kemp’s ridley, green and on occasion leatherback sea turtles do nest within the seashore.
Adult and hatchling sea turtles are distracted or disoriented by man-made artificial light sources which draw them away from the Gulf of Mexico and inland toward the artificial lights. These disoriented turtles often die from dehydration, are preyed upon by coyotes, ghost crabs or sometimes crawl onto roads or parking lots where they are run over by cars.
Turning off excess outdoor lights and installing turtle friendly lights can help to protect nesting and hatching sea turtles. The national seashore recently completed a large-scale wildlife friendly lighting project retrofitting and replacing necessary outdoor fixtures and eliminating unnecessary fixtures.
Park biologists used amber-LED lights shielded and installed as low as possible.
“Ensuring the continued survival of nesting sea turtles requires all of us in the community to continue to limit our impact and work to preserve the incredible habitat offered by the national seashore,” Superintendent Dan Brown said.
Park staff and volunteers are monitoring park beaches daily for nesting and hatching activity as the season progresses. If you see a sea turtle at night, keep your distance and keep all lights off including flash lights and flash photography.