Dolphin Tales: It’s sea turtle nesting season
Our resident bottlenose dolphins share our local waters with many marine species. As our manatees are moving to cooler waters, the loggerhead and green sea turtles will be arriving to lay their eggs on our barrier islands. The barrier islands that wrap the 17 miles of Pine Island from the south to north are Sanibel, Captiva, North Captiva, Cayo Costa and Gasparilla.
From May to October, these islands become sea turtle nesting grounds. Female sea turtles will lay eggs up to eight times during the season. Each nest averages about 110 eggs. Of that number only about 80 percent will hatch and about half of those will survive.
Most nests will hatch between 45-65 days after they are laid. Once the female lays her eggs, she will return to the sea. The hatchlings use their instincts to guide them once they emerge from the eggs.
Cayo Costa averages over 300 sea turtle nests each year. Every morning at dawn volunteers patrol the beach looking for tracks that the sea turtle left behind when she emerged from the sea between dusk and dawn. Screens are placed over the eggs to protect them from predators. The screens still allow the hatchlings to exit from the nest. The volunteers will place stakes and yellow caution tape around the nest.
Adult loggerheads weigh about 250-350 pounds and have a shell length of about 3 feet. Adult green sea turtles have a more streamlined body and average about 350 pounds. and 3 feet in length. Loggerheads can live 60+ years. It takes about 30 years for loggerheads to be reproductively active.
Keep your eyes open as you scan the water. You might see one of these awesome creatures. If it looks like a log, it is a loggerhead!
Capt. Cathy Eagle has spent over 40 years boating in our local waters. As a professional charter captain she specializes in dolphin and nature tours. Visit CaptainCathy.com or call 239 994-2572.