If you follow me on social media, you know I try to get to the beach around sunrise for either a walk or run. I love to post pictures of the sunrise, patches of shells, strange things that washed on shore, and; this time of year, turtle tracks! The turtle nesting season officially starts March 1 in Brevard County, but I normally do not see tracks in Cocoa Beach until the end of April or sometime in May. Once it starts, it can be an everyday occurrence seeing the paths these mama turtles leave behind as they come ashore to find the right spot to lay their eggs.
Where can you find these tracks? Anywhere on the beach from Cape Canaveral south to Sebastian Inlet. I recommend getting to the beach around sunrise to do your walk. Pick your favorite stretch and see what you can find. Since I live in South Cocoa Beach, my walks are typically between Minutemen Causeway and 16th St South. Some mornings I do not see any, and others I come across several sets of tracks. If you do see some tracks and you are curious about what type of turtle it is, here is a chart that shows the different patterns and what type she might have been.
The Sea Turtle Society has said the loggerhead is the most common here in Brevard County. So common, that they only mark one out of five nests. They will always mark a green turtle or leatherback turtle because they aren’t as common on our beaches. Here is a link that has more information about the tracks and possible nest sites.
Do you want to witness a turtle laying her eggs? You might need to make a couple trips out to witness this, but definitely, a cool sight to see. The later in the night you can go out the better. (or early morning/several hours before sunrise) Just like you can see the tracks anywhere from Cape Canaveral to Sebastian Inlet, the same holds true with seeing a Mama turtle come ashore. The two times I have seen this, I was walking the beaches at Patrick Air Force Base between 11 pm and 1 am. You will need to give your eyes time to adjust to the darkness. If you want to take a flashlight, make certain it has a red lens on it similar to the one in the link below
If you were hoping to take a picture of the turtle laying her eggs or making the trek to or from the ocean, do not use your flash and you might want to have a tripod because of the longer shutter speeds.
I do not know how much the moon cycle has an effect on the turtles coming ashore. I see the tracks on the beach during a full moon, new moon or crescent moon. For the ease of sight, I would try doing it near the full moon to walk by the moon’s light. If you would like to learn more about the Sea Turtles and walk with the pro’s; the Sea Turtle Society offers a turtle walk. More information can be found here http://www.seaturtlespacecoast.org/turtlewalkregistration.html
If you are hoping to see the baby turtles break free from their nest and head out to sea to start their life journey, you will need to get up early. They prefer to make the run from nest to water during the night to have the protection of the darkness from the predators that are out there. I have seen this happen a couple of times right around sunrise, which the folks from the Sea Turtle Society said was pretty rare. Your best bet is to walk the beach at least an hour before sunrise. Use the same technique when walking the beach for the Mama turtle coming ashore, either give your eyes time to adjust to the darkness or carry a flashlight with a red lens. Since their incubation period is anywhere from 45-55 days, we should start seeing the hatchlings from June through October.
Remember, if you happen to see a turtle or hatchling, you are not supposed to touch them or interfere with their journey. So, keep your distance and take some pictures or videos of the occasion. Report sick, injured, entangled or dead sea turtles to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Alert Hotline, 1-888-404-3922. (This number is also for manatee, dolphins or whales too)
I did have the honor of watching some hatchlings break free from their nest to start their life journey. Here is the video documenting what I saw.
About the author:
Eric Larkin is a Broker Associate with REMAX Solutions. He lives, works, and plays in the Cocoa Beach area. Eric has been helping buyers and sellers with their real estate needs since becoming a real estate agent in 2003. His focus is always on helping, answering your questions, and doing everything possible to make certain you have a smooth transaction from beginning to end.
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