Turtle Nesting Season is Around the Corner in Sanibel and Captiva

Turtle Nesting Season is Around the Corner in Sanibel and CaptivaIf you are considering purchasing a Sanibel Island home along the Gulf shore, or have just purchased a home on the Gulf shore, it is good to know Sanibel's sea turtle nesting season. There are required ordinances for property owners on the beach during sea turtle nesting season. Sanibel has always been a safe and ideal place for local turtles to nest on the beaches and Sanibel takes pride in its role in helping to preserve and hopefully increase the sea turtle population. Sea turtles are endangered creatures and Sanibel hopes to do their part in helping this species remain on the planet.

When is sea turtle nesting season?

Sea turtle nesting season begins very soon on April 15 and ends on October 31 on both Sanibel and Captiva Island. Beaches stretching from the Sanibel Island lighthouse to the tip of Captiva Island are all under special ordinance during this time and are checked often by the SCCF for turtle nests.

What is the SCCF?

SCCF stands for Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation. This organization has been long-standing on the island in helping with the supervision and protection of sea turtle nests for many years on the islands. Helping the SCCF can be a great way to volunteer and get to know other Sanibel Island neighbors if you are interested in working with and helping preserve wildlife and natural areas on the island.

About sea turtles on Sanibel

There are seven different species of sea turtles two of which are mainly found to nest on Sanibel Island. The majority of turtles found on Sanibel Island are loggerhead turtles. It is also common to find green sea turtle nests and on rare occasions, there are leatherback and Kemps ridley turtle nests on the islands.

The baby sea turtles are referred to as hatchlings and often hatch late at night using the light of the moon to help guide them out to the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It is fun to walk the beaches during the day and find hatchling trails that lead from a nest out to the water, especially in the morning. Sea turtles are some of the oldest living creatures but they also meet with extreme challenges to make it to the sea once they have hatched and to survive. A sea turtle can move through the water at a speed of 15 miles an hour. An adult male sea turtle can be as big as 250 pounds with a 3-foot shell. However there have been reports of finding some sea turtles that were over 1000 pounds. The average lifespan of a sea turtle that makes it back to the sea after hatching and survives infancy is 50 years. Often females will swim thousands of miles but make sure to return to the same familiar beaches to lay their eggs.

City of Sanibel sea turtle lighting ordinances

The city of Sanibel in partnership with SCCF asks that all beachgoers and beach homeowners be aware of the ordinances to keep beaches dark and free from disturbance and debris during nesting season to help these protected and endangered animals and to keep Sanibel one of the most turtle friendly beaches in the state. One of the biggest threats to turtle survival is artificial lighting which can disorient turtle hatchlings from following moonlight to navigate back to the water. It can also cause mama turtles to become disoriented and fail to lay their eggs. For this reason, the city has implemented lighting regulations for Gulf of Mexico beachfront homes. After 9 o'clock the city asks homeowners to:

Use outside lights that are turtle-friendly

This means switching out exterior light bulbs for long wavelength certified wildlife-friendly bulbs. Make sure that every exterior lighting fixture is a downward-facing fixture that is fully shielded from the view of the beach. The lights on the front of houses on the opposite side of the beach are also asked to be compliant so that they are not visible from the beach. Any pool lighting must be 560 nm or greater or they need to be turned off after 9 PM.

Shield interior lights from the view of the beach

When you have lights on in your home make sure that they are not visible from the beach by using blackout curtains and closing them after 9 PM. Try to move interior lamps away from windows and consider using 15% transmitent tinted turtle glass if possible.

The city asks all beachgoers to:

  • Refrain from using flashlights with white lights or cell phone lights on the beach at night time
  • Pick up all beach furniture and other obstructions along with litter and fill in any holes that were dug before leaving the beach for the day. Make sure to not cross marked sea turtle nests and give space to wildlife and SCCF-posted wildlife areas.
  • The city of Sanibel states this about the protection of sea turtles on their site (linked below) "Sea turtles are protected under the Endangered Species Act. It is illegal to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect a sea turtle. Violations of wildlife ordinances may be subject to City, State, and Federal penalties and should be reported immediately to the Sanibel Police Department at (239) 472-3111."

If you have questions about what is required for sea turtle nest protection you can check out the article posted a few years ago about Sanibel's nesting season ordinances as well as the specific ordinances and informational videos posted on the city of Sanibel website.

2023 was a record year for sea turtle nests on Sanibel

Last year's sea turtle nesting season was a record-breaking success on Sanibel Island. Hurricane Ian brought a sad loss in nesting numbers due to devastation on beaches but last year's numbers far exceeded any previous number recorded. The volunteers at SCCF recorded that there were 1177 loggerhead nests on Sanibel and Captiva Island for the season and that they found 24 green sea turtle nests. It is estimated that these nests produced 27,368 hatchlings.

This is important information to know if you have a Sanibel or Captiva Island home on the gulf beach or utilize the gulf shore beaches on the islands. If you are looking for a home on Sanibel Island I am here to help. I am happy to help you find that dream home either to live on the best Island in Florida you're around or to purchase your perfect home away from home. Contact me anytime with any Sanibel real estate needs.

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