TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
Turtle nesting season is in full swing, and environmental specialists from the 325th Civil Engineer Squadron’s Environmental Flight have begun to find sea turtle nests on Tyndall beaches.
Biologists comb the beaches of Tyndall to find signs of sea turtle nesting. This activity is held every year to ensure that all sea turtle species have the best chance of producing a successful nest.
“We build barriers around the nests once we find them, and then mark them,” said Danielle Bumgardner, 325th Environmental Flight biologist. “Once they’re marked it’s illegal for people to mess with them. We also put a screen over the top that will protect them from predation without inhibiting them from hatching.”
Sea turtles usually nest on the gulf side beaches of Tyndall close to the first dune. The turtles typically choose nesting sites where the sand has just the right amount of moisture, not too wet, and not too dry, just right with not too many shells, vegetation or debris.
According to the environmental flight’s records, Tyndall had 94 sea turtle nests on the beach in 2015. This included 81 loggerhead and 13 green turtle nests. Tyndall nests have about a 58 percent hatch rate, which is often due to a mixture of outside factors such as predators and the location of the nest.
Onshore threats to eggs and hatchlings include ghost crabs, coyotes, raccoons, opossums, dogs, feral cats, seagulls, wading birds, crows, eagles, poachers and light pollution. Even the sea oats that grow in the dunes can pose a threat to the nests. The oats roots will begin to grow into the eggs as they naturally seek nutrients.
Because of the already drastic threats the turtle nests face, it is critical that beachgoers respect and do not disturb any nesting turtles, hatchlings or nests that they may find.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s website, you can help the survival of baby turtles by taking an active role in maintaining your beach. Some ways you can do this is organize or join a beach clean-up day. Check with organizations or schools in your area to become involved in clearing the beaches of trash that could be harmful to wildlife. Also don’t leave fishing lines behind. This entangles many types of wildlife, including sea turtles. Do not feed sea turtles or other wildlife. This encourages them to approach people in high traffic areas. Never buy products made from sea turtles and reduce the amount of plastic garbage you produce.
For more information on sea turtles and ways to protect them, visit http://myfwc.com/research/wildlife/sea-turtles/florida/faq/