Siesta Key’s beaches are about to get a little busier for the summer season – with nesting sea turtles. Home to the greatest density of loggerhead turtles in the Gulf, Sarasota County takes great pride in conserving and researching sea turtles.
From May 1 to October 31 each year, sea turtles come ashore on Florida’s Gulf Coast to nest. Turtle nesting hit near-record numbers last year, and, fingers crossed, the population will continue to grow in 2018.
In 2017, Sea Turtle Patrol volunteers from Mote Aquarium counted more than 600 loggerhead and green turtle nests on Siesta Key – and more than 4,500 in the Sarasota-Manatee county. The area includes 35 miles of beach from Longboat Key in the north to Venice Beach in the south. The greatest numbers of new nests spotted in early to mid-June.
Where to See Turtles on Siesta Key
The best place to spot turtles on Siesta Key is the aptly named Turtle Beach (8862 Midnight Pass Rd.) at the island’s south end. This beach is much quieter than bustling Siesta Beach, making it the perfect spot for mothers to lay their eggs.
While Turtle Beach might not have the paper-white sand of the beaches of the north, is a great place for family-friendly outdoor activities such as kayaking, snorkeling, and, of course, wildlife viewing. Along with sea turtles, dolphins, manatees, and many species of birds can be seen from the shore.
While turtle nests are neat to see, do not approach the turtles. Loggerhead and green turtles are threatened species, and excessive noise, garbage, and pets are all harmful to them.
Fun Facts About These Incredible Animals
As their name suggests, these reptiles have oversized, log-like heads that they use to chow down on their prey. Loggerheads are omnivores, and eating marine life like conch, crabs, jellyfish, seaweed, and algae.
Loggerhead sea turtles live to about 50 years of age, weigh more than 200 pounds, and are about three feet long. They live in oceans around the world – except where the water is really cold. There are more loggerheads than any other species of turtle in U.S. waters.
Female loggerheads typically lay eggs four times in one nesting period, which occurs every two to three years. The females coming ashore to dig a hole in the dry sand for her eggs each time. With sharp homing instincts, these turtles often travel to the beach where they were born to lay her eggs.
Sea turtle eggs hatch in about 60 days, and the babies dig their way up through the sand, only breaching the surface once the sun has set. At nightfall, the hatchlings make their way toward the ocean following the natural light of the moon.
Tips for the Public
Loggerheads are an endangered species, and disruption or removal of turtles or nests is strictly prohibited. Here are a few tips for you to help the conservation efforts here in Sarasota County:
- If you spot a nest or hatchlings, keep quiet and observe from a distance
- Be careful when boating in the in the area – sea turtles mate offshore before females come ashore to nest
- Turn off beach-facing outdoor lights at night for the season and close the drapes after dark so as not to disorient the hatchlings on their journey to the sea
- Keep the beach free of pets, furniture, trash, and obstacles
If you see a sick or injured turtle, call the Mote Marine Laboratory’s Stranding Investigations Program at 941-988-0212.
Visit Siesta Key this spring to witness the first step in the circle of a sea turtle’s life. With long stretches of beach, tons of outdoor activities, and fantastic vacation rentals at our family-friendly Siesta Key resort hotel, you’re guaranteed to have fun in the sun this spring and summer. For more information and availability, give us a call at (941) 349-1125.