Nesting Season Success: Sea Turtles Impress With Strides Towards Conservation

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The 325th Fighter Wing has reported a record-breaking sea turtle nesting season at the beaches located on Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. The nesting season runs from May 1 to August 31 each year.

This year, Tyndall Air Force Base has seen a sharp increase in sea turtle nesting. The previous record for sea turtle nests on the base’s beaches was 117, but this year there are 131. Additionally, the number of green sea turtle nests has more than doubled from 19 last season to 48 this season.

Rebecca Johnson, a wildlife and biological technician with the 325th Civil Engineer Squadron natural resources department, is shown excavating a sea turtle nest at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida on August 25, 2023. After a nest has hatched, Johnson and her team excavate it to ensure all the eggs have hatched.

The base primarily sees loggerhead sea turtles, which lay between 80 to 100 eggs in one nest, and a few green sea turtles, which can lay up to 150 eggs in one nest.

All sea turtles in the United States are protected under the Endangered Species Act, which was passed in 1973 to protect critically imperiled species from extinction.

During nesting season, Beckie Johnson and the team of volunteers, known as the Tyndall Turtle Trackers, survey the beach in the early morning hours looking for signs of new nests.

Johnson, who has worked with the Natural Resources Office for nine years, can even identify the species of turtle based on the tracks they leave behind.

The Tyndall Turtle Trackers team undergoes specific training from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to identify sea turtle species by their crawl.

Loggerheads have a zigzagged crawl, while green sea turtles have a butterfly crawl.

When the team identifies a nest, they place a metal screen over the top and rope it off to protect it from predators and beachgoers until the nest hatches.

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Hatching season begins 60 days after the first nest is laid and continues until the end of October. The team monitors the nests daily until they hatch.

After a nest hatches, trained members of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife or Natural Resources return to excavate it three days later and take inventory of the eggs.

Any stragglers are released into the ocean at the time of excavation, and Johnson is happy to let beachgoers join in on the experience.

Johnson recounted an experience where she let beachgoers watch her inventory a nest that was three miles from the beach access point.

She felt some movement and found a hatchling, which she pulled out to show the excited onlookers.

The Tyndall Turtle Trackers team asks beachgoers to avoid using flashlights at night as they can confuse the hatchlings and cause them to wander in the direction of the light instead of the water. Instead, they recommend using a red or amber light.

For residents on or near the shoreline, turning off exterior lights at night can also reduce the possibility of disorienting the turtles.

If a sea turtle crawl is found on Tyndall’s beaches, contact the Natural Resources Office at 850-283-2641. For beaches off the base, contact the Florida Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922.

How Long Can A Sea Turtle Hold Its Breath?

Sea turtles cannot breathe underwater because their biological mechanism does not allow them to do so. Instead, they hold their breath while underwater.

A sea turtle can hold its breath for up to 10 hours, depending on its activity level. When the turtle is active, such as swimming or hunting, it consumes more stored oxygen to convert into energy and can hold its breath for up to 45 minutes.

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When resting or sleeping, the turtle’s activity level falls, and its body slows down, reducing the oxygen requirement. As a result, they can stay underwater for 4 to 10 hours.

However, when sea turtles are under stress or panic, their oxygen requirements increase. If they become trapped in a ghost net, for example, they can deplete their stored oxygen within a few minutes and either drown or die due to the lack of oxygen. Click here to learn more How Long Can A Sea Turtle Hold Its Breath?

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About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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