Sea Turtle Nests & What You Need To Know

Sea turtles are endangered species. Though there has been an increase in their overall population lately, it is not enough. Of course, there are many ways to help this survive. Protecting their nests and ensuring harmless hatching is definitely a noteworthy one.

Sea turtles nest from March through October. You can pick up nesting turtles’ foot tracks all over the sandy beaches from the sea to the nest site during these months. A safe environment around the beaches and shoreline can increase the rate of these nests.

The following article includes the basic information you should know on sea turtle nests. Also, it explains your responsibility to save this species.

Everything You Need To Know About Sea Turtle Nests

According to statistics, a minor percentage of the eggs of a sea turtle nest can make it to the sea. Not only that. Less than 1% of these fighter babies can actually survive to adulthood.

Of course, you can contribute to raising the survival percentage with ocean cleaning and abiding by other marine rules. But my main focus here is protecting the sea turtle nests and our duty to protect the clutches.

In fact, wildlife and marine authorities of different states and countries enforce special rules and regulations to safeguard the nests. For example, disturbing a nesting sea turtle or tampering with the clutches is a federal offense in Florida. The accused can be fined $10000 – $25000 or sent to jail.

As a turtle enthusiast, here are some facts that you should know about sea turtle nesting,

1. When Is The Nesting Season?

The breeding and nesting season of sea turtles lasts from March through October. During these 8 months, the mother turtles fertilize their eggs, build a nest on the beach of their birthplace, lay the eggs, and return to the ocean.

Depending on the nesting time, the hatching period of the clutches will be different. However, as per data, the sea turtle eggs hatch throughout the year.

However, the best time to witness turtle hatching is July to September or the whole summer season. The ocean is calmer during these months, so babies can easily swim into the open sea.

2. Where Do Sea Turtles Nest?

According to experts, adult sea turtles migrate to their birthplaces during breeding. After a successful copulation, the mother turtles wait for the gestation period and search for suitable nests along the sandy beach. Then, they lay their eggs when the time comes and return to their foraging ground once they are done depositing eggs.

Most sea turtle species participate in community nesting. So, during the nesting season, you will witness coastal beaches swarming with gravid turtles and their hatchlings.

Key West, Florida, Beaches of the Gulf Islands, and Rancho Nuevo host some of the largest sea turtle nestings. Besides, the nests are observed on many coastal beaches around the globe.

For example, in Malaysia, the beaches of Sabah, Sarwang, Pahang, and Perak are a sanctuary for marine turtles. Similarly, Heron Island and the Great Barrier Reef are two noteworthy sea turtle nesting points in Australia.

3. Nest & Eggs

A nesting sea turtle can deposit 40 to 200 eggs, depending on the species. While leatherback sea turtles lay 110 eggs, flatback sea turtles deposit 40 – 50 eggs. Again, the hawksbill sea turtles have a record of laying 200 eggs at once.

I know the clutch size is bigger than the aquatic or semi aquatic turtles. But considering the gigantic size of sea turtles, it is not impossible.

The sea turtle eggs are ping-pong-sized. Because of the soft shell and careful deposition, these eggs do not crack or collide with one another.

On average, the hatching rate of these clutches is more than 50%. But sadly, only a handful of these babies can make it to the sea. However, sea turtles laying 2 – 7 clutches each breeding season is a natural way to cope with that loss.

4. Nesting Preparation

As you know, sea turtles do not have webbed feet like aquatic turtles. So, coming to the sandy beach and digging a nest is a hassle for them.

These creatures have to drag themselves to the spot using the flippers. In fact, some gravid turtles do give up and return to the ocean without nesting.

So, when a sea turtle finds a suitable nesting spot, it will remove the dirt and debris from there. Next, the creature will create a body pit and take a rest. Once charged up, the gravid turtle starts digging the egg chamber using flippers. The creature will stop when the nest is at least 14 – 22 inches deep.

Generally, sea turtles deposit 2 – 7 clutches of eggs each season. So, the creature has to dig up 2 – 7 egg chambers, each for one clutch.

5. When Do Sea Turtles Nest?

Sea turtles prepare the egg chamber right before the deposition. So when the mothers are done with the nest, they will start laying eggs.

Usually, turtles prefer nighttime for egg deposition as the environment is calmer. Also, there is less chance of heatstroke during the night. However, hawksbill sea turtles and Olive Ridley sea turtles nest in the daytime.

It takes 30 minutes to 5 hours for the gravid turtles to finish egg deposition. During this period, the mothers stay in a half-conscious stage. Therefore, no one should disturb nesting eggs in any case, as it will scare them away.

6. How To Spot A Sea Turtle Nest?

Sandy beaches are the perfect spots for sea turtles to make nests. Sometimes, the turtles build in the middle of the beach or against the dune. You may step on a nest if you are not careful enough. That is why the authorities mark the nests with a wooden board.

However, you can detect a sea turtle nest only with proper observation. See, when marine turtles emerge from the ocean and come to the sand, they leave their marks all around. You will notice telltale tracks of massive whorls or choppy strides in the sand. These marks will lead you to the nest.

But yes, these tracks are most visible before sunrise. The strong wind and tide will erase the strolls later in the day.

Another fun fact is you can even spot the little steps of the baby sea turtles too.

Generally, sea turtle hatchlings use their beaks and egg tooth to break the eggshell. Then they push back the packed sand over the nest together. Naturally, the babies come out of the nest during the night and use the moonlight along with the tide to reach the ocean,

The empty sea turtle nest looks like a ghost crab’s burrow. After leaving the nest, the hatchlings rush to the sea, wiggling with their small feet. You will notice small oval tracks towards the surf if you look closely.

7. Sea Turtle Walk In Nesting Season

I know for a turtle enthusiast, observing the nesting sea turtles or picking up the tracks of baby turtles is more than exciting. Fortunately, many coastal organizations arrange sea turtle walks to offer guests a glimpse of the nesting process. You can even watch the hatchlings walking towards the sea for the first time if you are lucky enough.

Those organizations do the whole tour maintaining all rules and regulations. Also, they ensure that no sea turtles are getting disturbed during the process.

However, getting a reservation on these walks is tough. Even though you manage a seat, it will cost you hundreds of dollars to witness this phenomenon.

8. How Can You Help Sea Turtle Nests?

  1. Never approach a nesting sea turtle. These wild animals feel insecure at the human sight and might rush to the water without nesting. As you know, turtles can not lay eggs in the ocean because of the water buoyancy pressure. Hence, the creatures will suffer from dystocia or egg retention and undergo physical complications.
  2. Nesting sea turtles generally migrate to that spot traveling thousands of miles. So, these creatures stay dependent on the existing dune vegetation and plants in the region. Do not do anything to destroy the system intentionally.
  3. Sea turtles often nest against the dunes. So, never walk on the dune systems during the nesting season.
  4. Use proper walking and driving lanes near the beach. Again, car honking creates sound pollution and disturbs the nesting sea turtles. Therefore, do no such stunts that can disrupt the peaceful nesting environment.
  5. Keep the floodlights and all kinds of flashlights turned off around the nests. It is because baby sea turtles utilize the moonlight and wave sound to navigate their steps to the open sea. Any bright light, even your phone or camera flashlight, can mislead the hatchlings. You can use LED lights as an alternative, as these are less visible to the turtles.
  6. The area between the nests and the ocean should be clean and free of any obstacles. Remove the picnic mats and fill the sand castle holes. The little sea turtle baby can not get on the surface if it falls into the trap by accident.
  7. Campfires and firecrackers can disturb marine turtles. Hence, you should avoid any fire sources.
  8. If you want a nesting tour, take a guide with you. He will instruct you on the safe and harmless way of approaching the nesting areas. For example, walk slowly and talk softly if you encounter a marine turtle near you.
  9. Do not touch sea turtles, as it is a federal offense in the USA. Only a licensed researcher can touch these creatures for research purposes. However, you can get in contact with sea turtles if they are in danger and need help.
  10.  Call the marine authority or the coastal safeguards if you notice an injured sea turtle or an exposed nest.
  11. Donate to marine welfare organizations and sponsor a nest.

Find More Volunerty Steps Here!

Conclusion

Most sea turtle species participate in community nesting along the beaches. As the survival rate of the turtle clutches is not satisfactory, we should be involved in protecting these species. Sponsoring a turtle clutch or safeguarding the nesting zones can help save the population.

Muntaseer Rahman

I have been keeping turtles as a pet for many years now. I’ve fallen in love with these cute pets from the moment I saw them. That’s why I am writing articles to share my turtle keeping knowledge with you.

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