Our summer vacation at St. George Island on the Gulf Coast of Florida was the best! We saw lots of dolphin and had our first ever close-up view of a loggerhead sea turtle nest. The first morning we were there we saw a “turtle volunteer” marking and inspecting a new turtle nest. Our daughter loves turtles – so this was very exciting. The volunteer dug down to find the clutch of eggs, and we were able to see the top couple of eggs. A sea turtle egg is about the size of a ping-pong ball and feels rubbery (so we were told).
With our renewed enthusiasm to protect sea turtles, we spent the week cleaning up trash on the beach. We also attended an informative turtle talk at the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve (ANERR) by the local “turtleman”, Bruce Drye, the marine turtle permit holder for St. George Island and also the coordinator for the island’s volunteer turtler group.
We learned some important tips to help sea turtles:
- it is against the law to touch or disturb nesting sea turtles, hatchlings or their nests. Sea turtles are protected by the Federal Endangered Species Act and the Florida Marine Turtle Protection Act
- turn off lights at night so the hatchlings do not get confused and crawl towards the houses
- fill in holes made on the beach while playing so a turtle does not get stuck in it
- clear all your belongings from the beach each day so turtles do not become entrapped in them (chairs, umbrellas, etc.)
During our vacation we looked for turtle crawls (the trail the mother turtle makes while crawling ashore) and more nests – but saw nothing until our last morning. My daughter and I went out to take pictures and we found a crawl! The mother loggerhead had detoured around a hole and crawled all the way up into the dune. We could not see it, but the turtle volunteer confirmed there was indeed a nest! We were thrilled. We hope that some of these nests survive hurricane season. I think the mother that nested in the dune had the greatest chance for a successful nest.
Be a good tourist – take care of our turtles!