Record Numbers of Loggerhead Sea Turtles Nesting Along Brevard County Beaches
By Space Coast Daily // June 3, 2019
observers have counted more than 250 nests so far
BREVARD COUNTY • PORT CANAVERAL, FLORIDA – Record numbers of loggerhead sea turtles reportedly are nesting on beaches along the North Reach, which includes Jetty Park beach at the Port and extends to the north end of Patrick Air Force Base.
Sea turtle nesting season started May 1 and lasts until Oct. 31.
Before nesting season began, Port Canaveral and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wrapped up a five-month sand bypass project that transferred more than 1.34 million cubic yards of sand from the north side of the inlet to beaches from Jetty Park to just south of the Cocoa Beach Pier.
Most females return faithfully to the same beach each time they are ready to nest. Not only do they appear on the same beach, they often emerge within a few hundred yards of where they last nested.
When the turtle has finished digging the egg chamber, she begins to lay eggs. Two or three eggs drop out at a time, with mucus being secreted throughout egg-laying.
The average size of a clutch ranges from about 80 to 120 eggs, depending on the species. Because the eggs are flexible, they do not break as they fall into the chamber.
This flexibility also allows both the female and the nest to hold more eggs. Nesting sea turtles appear to shed tears, but the turtle is just secreting salt that accumulates in her body.
Many people believe that while laying her eggs a sea turtle goes into a trance from which she cannot be disturbed.
Unlike baby alligators, which are liberated from their nest by their mother, sea turtle hatchlings must do it all themselves. To break open their shells, hatchlings use a temporary, sharp egg-tooth, called a “caruncle.”
The caruncle is an extension of the upper jaw that falls off soon after birth. Digging out of the nest is a group effort that can take several days. Hatchlings usually emerge from their nest at night or during a rainstorm when temperatures are cooler. Once they decide to burst out, they erupt from the nest cavity as a group.
The little turtles orient themselves to the brightest horizon and then dash toward the sea.
If they don’t make it to the ocean quickly, many hatchlings will die of dehydration in the sun or be caught by predators like birds and crabs.
Once in the water, they typically swim several miles offshore, where they are caught in currents and seaweed that may carry them for years before returning to nearshore waters.
There are many obstacles for hatchlings in the open ocean. Sharks, big fish and circling birds all eat baby turtles, and they die after accidentally eating tar balls and plastic garbage.
The obstacles are so numerous for baby turtles that only about one in 1,000 survives to adulthood.
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