Forget the Easter bunny. In South Florida, spring means sea turtles.
Three types -- leatherbacks, loggerheads and green sea turtles -- lay their eggs on beaches along Florida's coasts, typically between March 1 and Oct. 31. It's exciting for conservationists, scientists and outdoor enthusiasts. But it also means South Florida residents need to take extra precautions to ensure vulnerable hatchlings make it safely to the ocean.
"The biggest and arguably the most important thing is to give sea turtles their space at night," said Hannah Cambell, environmental programs manager for the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach. The turtles nest at night, so Campbell said people should try to postpone evening and night beach trips.
"We want to encourage people not to occupy the beaches," she said, "and let that natural nesting process happen on its own."
Turtle hatchlings find their way to the ocean by following the moonlight, so Campbell says it’s also important for residents of coastal dwellings to pull the shades at night. Otherwise urban lights can draw the hatchlings in the wrong direction -- away from the sea and onto roads.
For outdoor lights, Campbell said an alternative is to change bright white or yellow lightbulbs to amber. Turtles live in environments with mostly blue light and have a hard time seeing red light, which is at the opposite end of the light spectrum.
"They don't see light the way we do," she said.
Leatherback sea turtles typically nest earliest in the year, followed by loggerheads and green sea turtles.