FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. — The giant of the ocean, the Leatherback Sea Turtle, could be back on the shores soon, as April 15th is the start of sea turtle nesting season in Florida. While Leatherbacks aren't common along the Gulf Coast, Loggerhead Sea Turtles typically return in late April to the Gulf beaches.
Coming off Hurricane Ian's impact on the water, people who watch turtles closely are curious about how nesting season will play out.
Debris and hazards, including hardware like nails and screws, still dot the sand along the beaches. Local naturalist Ranger Rob Howell said there is a concern about what the turtles may be running into as they dig their nests.
“These turtles dig nests a foot deep in the sand,” said Howell. “And that sand could be hiding a lot of debris or hazards that we might not see on the surface because we are still working on just cleaning off the roads in some cases. So, beaches alone could have all kinds of debris and hazards.”
Howell is also concerned about light pollution. He says while lights along the beaches are always a concern, workers from outside the area might not be familiar with our light rules during nesting season.
The other concern is as beaches are being cleaned up; more turtle nests might be threatened. That could lead to more nests being relocated this year.
But with the challenges after Ian come the positives. There are still many beaches that have yet to be reopened. That could lead to fewer false crawls and more undisturbed nests.
Remember, when you see a turtle laying her eggs, make sure you do not disturb them or the nest afterward. Sea turtle nesting season typically runs through the end of October.