For a sea turtle, nest site location is the most important part of the birthing process. A female turtle is not involved at all after her approximately 100 eggs are deposited – but she will expend great effort to look for just the right area to lay those eggs. Location is important, as she will return to the same beach area up to eight times that season to create and populate additional nests.¬†While up to 900 eggs per season (per turtle) may seem excessive, the eggs and hatchlings are exceptionally vulnerable. Between hurricanes, dehydration, real estate development, predators, and nosy humans, the odds are that only ONE of the young turtles will make it safely back to the water. This is why it is so critical for residents and tourists to band together to do everything we can to help – and not hinder – the sea turtle’s chances of survival. If you are visiting Siesta Key during sea turtle nesting season, here is the information you need.

Sea Turtle Nesting Habits

Florida is known for its hundreds of beaches, and this sandy paradise ends up being home to up to 90% of the annual sea turtle nests. And while most of these nests are found on the Atlantic side of the state, Gulf beaches also get their fair share of flippered visitors. Sea turtle nesting season officially runs from May 1st through early November, but locals have noticed nesting of the huge leatherback variety as early as mid-February. It’s an impressive sight if you can see one of these massive turtles, which can be over 6 feet long and weigh up to 1500 pounds.

While the first wave of nesting turtles is leatherbacks, the loggerhead, and green turtles will begin to swarm the beaches within the next weeks and months. They tend to show up at night on the darkest beaches, which to them indicates less interference from humans and predators.

Watching hatchlings emerge from their nest is one of nature’s most fascinating shows. Two-inch hatchlings also prefer less light and cooler temperatures, so will often wait until dusk or nightfall to emerge. They will look for the brightest horizon and head for it, using instinct to guide them towards the moonlit water.
However, in our contemporary society, the brightest horizon is often a nearby roadway, building or residence.

How We Protect the Nests

If you visit Siesta Key during nesting season, you will be expected to assist the sea turtles just as the residents do. You are likely to see nests marked off with stakes and tape, both to prevent people from inadvertently disturbing the nests, and for researchers to be able to easily collect vital data.

If you are staying directly on the beach during sea turtle nesting season, local ordinances dictate how you can utilize artificial light after dark. Any indoor and artificial lights that can be seen from the beach must be:

  • appropriately shielded
  • replaced with red, orange, or amber bulbs, which are not visible to sea turtles
  • turned off completely.

Some areas of the beach may be closed off, and flashlights, flash cameras, and video recorders are prohibited. It is important to note that although it may be tempting to get a closer look, anyone caught disturbing turtles, nests, or hatchlings will be fined and could be arrested.

How Sea Turtle Nesting Affects Your Siesta Key Vacation

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has reported that the human impact on nesting turtles and their hatchlings is significant. That said, it is important to allow people to enjoy the beaches. This means we must work to coexist in peace and safety. If you are visiting Siesta Key, here are some recommendations:

  • Turn off all lights, and don’t use any electronic devices on the beach at night. Even the light from a cell phone or small flashlight can disorient a turtle – either an adult looking for an isolated place to nest, or a hatchling trying to find the water.
  • Throw away all trash properly and remove all beach chairs and gear so that nothing blocks the turtles’ path. Anglers should also be sure to clean up any fishing line completely.
  • Fill in any holes you dig in the sand before you go back to your rental property. Having fun and enjoying the beach is encouraged – but massive turtles who are used to buoyancy cannot crawl out of a hole and will become trapped. The same applies to sandcastles – take a photo to preserve your creation, then level the sand before leaving the beach.
  • Stay away from turtles and nests. Let nature take its course without disruption. Never feed turtles or try to attract them towards you. If you notice a turtle that appears to be sick, dying, or in distress, report it to authorities. Do not try to assist the animal.

How to Plan the Best Siesta Key Vacation

Being on Siesta Key during sea turtle nesting season is pretty cool, but the Key offers year-round opportunities to explore and enjoy nature. If you are visiting, here are some of our best recommendations for enjoying our beaches, natural beauty and waterways:

Six Sarasota Area Kayaking Spots
Favorite Bike Rides Around Siesta Key
Why Paddle Boarding is So Popular on Siesta Key
Siesta Key – Accessible to all Visitors
Watersports and Activities

Ride and Paddle provides the bicycles, kayaks, scooters, beach gear, and local knowledge you need to have an amazing vacation.