5 Ways to Do Your Part During Sea Turtle Nesting Season in St. Augustine

Ever gone out for your morning beach walk and happened upon one of those mysterious areas of sand staked with brightly colored tape? Welcome to sea turtle nesting season in Florida! Your morning discovery is a sign that one of the most exciting times to visit St. Augustine’s beaches is in full swing! 

At FLAStays we believe both locals and vacationers want to do their part to help the environment. That’s why we put together this list of how you can show your love for these special animals. Whether your stay in St. Augustine is for a week, a month, or longer, you can do your part!

What Time of Year is Sea Turtle Nesting Season in St. Augustine?

Sea turtle nesting season officially runs from May 1st through October 31st in St. Johns County. Under the cover of night, thousands of mama sea turtles descend on the shores of Florida making the brave journey out of the sea and up the beach to dig their nests and lay their eggs. They safely bury their eggs in several feet of sand for incubation and protection and then return to the ocean.

Those areas marked with stakes on the beach are the work of dedicated and trained volunteers who comb the beaches every morning searching for nests. They record the locations and stake the nests for protection before the sun rises. When you book your vacation at our Coquina Condominiums, you are only steps away from the beach, giving you the best chance of seeing this wonder for yourself!

What’s So Special About Sea Turtles?

The most common sea turtles seen on Northeast Florida shores are the loggerhead, the leatherback, and the green sea turtle. The most populous in St. Augustine is the loggerhead. Witnessing the march of the baby sea turtles (formally called hatchlings) from their hatching to their triumphant entrance into the sea is an emotional and awe-inspiring experience. This draws visitors from all over the country hoping to catch a glimpse of this miracle of nature. Did you know that sea turtles have been around since the time that dinosaurs roamed the earth? One more reason that sea turtles are so special!

Photo: Jim Doleza/adobe stock
Photo: Scott McKay/adobe stock
Photo: Gerald ALTZ/adobe stock

A miraculous fact about sea turtles is that through a process called “imprinting,” they can navigate back to the very beach where they were born to lay their own nests. This is why baby sea turtles MUST make the journey from their warm nests to the open waters of the sea on their own. Any interference or “help” from well-intentioned humans disrupts this important process. So remember, never touch the turtles! Just observe in awe and wonder!

How to Be a Good Friend to Sea Turtles During Nesting Season

Though the distance from the dunes to the water’s edge may look short and easily manageable to human eyes, it is filled with potentially fatal dangers for baby sea turtles. This is why it is estimated that only about one in 1,000 to one in 10,000 survive to adulthood according to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). Those who survive the journey to adulthood will then be able to return to the beach of their birth to complete the circle of life. 

While it may be upsetting to think that these sweet creatures’ lives could be cut short so easily, there are many things you can do during your stay to help them reach the sea safely!

HERE ARE 5 WAYS TO DO YOUR PART THIS SEA TURTLE SEASON!

1. TURN OUT THE LIGHTS.

Sea turtles find their way to the ocean by instinctively searching for the light of the moon reflecting off the water. Artificial light sources such as flashlights, phone lights, flash photography, and even lights from beachfront houses and condos can cause them to become confused and disoriented. Turtles can mistake these light sources for their guiding light to the sea. This may cause them to start migrating in the wrong direction with fatal consequences. St. Johns County officials ask that all guests staying on oceanfront properties keep all blinds and curtains closed after sundown. If you want to enjoy a beach walk at night during sea turtle season be sure to use a red-filtered flashlight!

2. SMOOTH OUT THE SAND.

We know how much fun it is to build sand castles and dig moats with your little ones and we want you to continue in that fun all year long. But please remember that during nesting season these creations can become fatal barriers between the baby turtles and their journey to the sea. They can fall into holes and moats. They may become confused by castles and mounds left over and start heading in the opposite direction. Before you leave the beach for the day make sure you knock down your castles. Fill in any holes in the sand so turtles will have a safe and smooth path to the water.

3. CLEAN UP AFTER YOUR FUN DAY ON THE BEACH.

Make sure you pack up all of your beach furniture, fishing poles and line, toys, clothes, shoes, and towels. Be especially careful not to leave any food or plastic wrappers. Objects like beach chairs and toys can cause obstructions and confusion for the turtles. But an even bigger danger is the additional wildlife that can be attracted by leftover food. Sea turtle predators such as raccoons, birds, crabs, and even foxes are easily attracted by stray food. These animals will wreak havoc on the nearby nests. Turtles can mistake plastic food bags for jellyfish and swallow them. Make sure to clean up carefully so that these situations are easily avoided!

4. CALL FOR HELP.

Although it is illegal for the average beachgoer to touch a sea turtle or nest (yes even if you think you’re helping) our community is equipped with expertly trained professionals who can safely and legally transport these beautiful creatures to get the help they need. If you find a dead sea turtle or one in distress whether sick or injured on the beach, in the grass or in a parking lot, call the Florida Wildlife Commission’s 24-hour Wildlife Alert Number at 1-888-404-FWCC (1-888-404-3922). Be ready to identify the turtle’s exact location, its size, and the closest access point to its location. You may also call the St. Johns County Sherriff’s dispatch at 904-824-8304.

5. TAKE A TRIP TO THE SEA TURTLE HOSPITAL.

Every year nature and animal enthusiasts travel to Florida hoping to catch a glimpse of the iconic sea turtles. For these devotees and the newly curious alike, St. Augustine is extremely fortunate to have one of the premiere educational, research, and rehabilitation facilities in the country at The Sea Turtle Hospital at Whitney Laboratory.

As the only hospital in Northeast Florida that cares for sea turtles the Sea Turtle Hospital studies and rehabilitates sick and injured sea turtles and releases them back into the wild once they are cleared as healthy. Just a 10-minute drive from Coquina Condominiums, the hospital provides many educational programs for adults and children. 

Book a tour guided by one of the resident biologists where you will get a behind-the-scenes look at how the scientists and doctors study, care for, and eventually release these beautiful animals back into their natural habitat. And of course, most importantly, you will get to meet the precious patients and learn their stories.

Artichoke and Granny Smith are two patients who were treated and returned to the ocean by the Sea Turtle Hospital. Click on the link below to learn about their stories and watch the emotional video of their releases in front of a loving and cheering crowd! Be sure to keep an eye on Whitney Lab’s News & Events page here and you may get to experience this special event for yourself!

Check out Artichoke and Granny Smith’s stories here!

Artichoke and Granny Smith are two Sea Turtles that were treated and returned to the ocean by the Sea Turtle Hospital at Whitney Laboratory.
Photo credit: Whitney Lab


Book Your Beach Vacation Now!

Spend your vacation on one of the most gorgeous beaches in St. Augustine! Sea Turtle nesting season runs from May 1 to October 31. Make your vacation plans now with FLAStays! Every unit is oceanfront and only steps to the sand and the sea!

Book your vacation now with FlaStays!<br>
Coquina Condominiums, 7900 A1A South, St. Augustine, 32080

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