Southwest Florida’s sugary sand beaches are a popular recreation destination for people, but they also serve as important habitat for a variety of marine species, including the sea turtle. Of the three species of sea turtles that are found in southwest Florida waters, two come to area beaches to lay their eggs - the endangered green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and the threatened loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta). Leatherback turtles (Dermochelys cortacea) are also known to frequent reserve waters on occasion, with one nest recorded on Keewaydin Island in 2015. The Kemp’s ridley turtle (Lepidochelys kempii), is an endangered species that nests primarily in Mexico. Its hatchlings follow the Gulfstream and often end up in the Ten Thousand Islands where they find ample supply of crabs and other food items.
Each year from May through August, egg-laden females, guided by instinct, swim thousands of miles and often nest on the very beach where they hatched decades earlier. Under the cover of darkness, they hoist themselves up the beach to lay their eggs above the high water line. Roughly 60 days later, the young emerge and are guided to the sea by natural light. A third species, These turtles are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act and by the Marine Turtle Protection Act because of their declining numbers worldwide.
The Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve works in cooperation with Collier County Parks and Recreation to monitor sea turtle nesting efforts on the Reserve’s barrier island beaches.
Do your part to share our shores:
- Keep beaches free of barriers to nesting sea turtles, such as beach furniture or toys.
- Take your trash home with you.
- Keep beaches dark all summer – lights out or shielded by 9:00 p.m.
We're doing our part to protect habitat and monitor turtle nesting.