Residents, visitors asked to not disturb turtles
By Chris Fish
BEACHES -- Residents are encouraged to take extra precaution from now until Oct. 31, as Brevard County has kicked off another turtle-nesting season.
The Brevard County Natural Resources Management Office said that leatherback sea turtles, the largest living turtles, begin to come to shore in March to lay their eggs.
Leatherbacks are the rarest of the three sea turtles species, loggerhead and green sea turtles being the other two. All are endangered species, experts said.
Paula Berntson, beach programs assistant for the Brevard County Natural Resources Management Office, said in an email that residents should minimize beach lighting during this time to avoid disturbing the nesting process.
Ms. Bernston said the turtles may experience a different difficulty this year.
"Sea Turtle nests could be more vulnerable to rough seas and high tides this season after the erosion our beaches experienced in the wake of Hurricane Sandy," she said. "Brevard County is still working diligently to identify funds to replenish dunes."
She also said residents should not approach, touch or get in front of an adult turtle, harass baby turtles, disturb nests or use flashlights or flash cameras while on the beach.
The office also encourages residents to dispose of trash properly, fill in holes dug on the beach to prevent trapping turtles and close drapes in oceanfront rooms at night.
Brevard County and its municipalities' local lighting ordinances will take effect on May 1, when Loggerhead sea turtles begin to nest in large numbers, officials said.
During sea turtle nesting season, experts said that leatherback sea turtles typically lay their eggs in March, followed by loggerhead sea turtles and then green sea turtles.
Leatherback turtles are usually six to eight feet in length and weigh between 1,200 to 1,500 pounds.
According to Florida Statutes, Chapter 370, it is illegal to harm or harass sea turtles, their nests or their hatchlings.
For residents who are interested in participating in guided sea turtle walks in June and July this summer, reservations begin May 1 and space is limited.
Guided sea turtle walks are sponsored by the Sea Turtle Preservation Society, Barrier Island Center, Sebastian Inlet State Park and Canaveral National Seashore.
For sea turtle emergencies, call (321)676-1701. For more information about sea turtle lighting information, call (321)633-2016, Ext. 52431.
To reserve a guided sea turtle walk, call the Sea Turtle Preservation Society at (321) 676-1701, the Barrier Island Center at (321)723-3556, the Sebastian Inlet State Park at (772)388-2750 or the Canaveral National Seashore at (386)428-3384, Ext. 10.