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SEA TURTLES of Canaveral National Seashore
Canaveral National Seashore serves as an important nesting area for sea turtles. During the months of May through August, giant sea turtles lumber ashore to nest on the beach. Three species are know to nest within the park; the loggerhead, leatherback and green sea turtle. Loggerheads lay 3,000 - 4,000 nests per year. Up to three hundred greens and only a few leatherbacks deposit their eggs within the park boundaries each nesting season.
The sea turtles lay approximately 100 round, white, leathery eggs in each nest. Prior to 1984, most of the eggs laid within the seashore were eaten by raccoons, and to a lesser extent by ghost crabs. Some nests are lost when beaches erode during storms.
In the early 1980's researchers found raccoons were destroying 98 percent of Canaveral's turtle nests. The park began a program to help reverse this trend. After experimenting with several different ways of protecting the eggs, park rangers found that by securing a wire mesh screen over the nest, raccoons were prevented from digging in to the nests. The small hatchlings could still exit the next through the openings in the mesh. During the months of May through August, park rangers and volunteers work each night to screen the nests. After two months, when all the eggs have hatched, the screens are removed. Over 80 percent of the turtle nests have been protected using this method. Since the 1980's Canaveral National Seashores conservation efforts has a 90% success rate.
An important part of the seashore conservation efforts has been the education of the public. Every June and July guests come to the Sea Turtle Watch Program, not only do guests get to watch a loggerhead sea turtle lay her eggs, they also get to learn about the importance of the sea turtles to our environment, and learn how they can help this species survive. Turtle watch program information will be found here in season.
SEA TURTLE FACTS:
- Unlike other turtles, sea turtles cannot retract their legs and head into their shells.
- Turtles do not have teeth, but the jaws are shaped to provide crushing, biting or tearing surfaces appropriate for their diet.
- Like all reptiles, sea turtles lack external ears and the eardrum is covered with skin.
- Growth rates vary, but most sea turtle species mature slowly and all have a long life span.
- Temperatures of the sand where the turtles nest determine the sex of the turtle: below 85 degrees Fahrenheit is predominately male; above 85 degrees Fahrenheit is predominately female.
- Sea turtles also have a special adaptation process wherein they extract water from the food they intake and by metabolizing saltwater; as such they can survive in the ocean without the requirement of freshwater or a freshwater source.
- In addition to solving the problems of swimming and breathing, sea turtles have also come up with an ingenious way to rid their bodies of the salts they accumulate from the saltwater in which they live. Just behind each eye is a salt gland. The salt glands help sea turtles to maintain a healthy water balance by shedding large "tears" of excess salt. If a sea turtle appears to be "crying" it is usually not cause for alarm, as the turtles are merely keeping their physiology in check.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
- Take all the items you brought to the beach with you when you go.
- Do not leave litter on the beach which may disorient nesting females as they crawl out of the ocean.
- Fill in any holes you may have dug on the beach which may trap nesting turtles and hatchlings.
- If you see a turtle on the beach - do not touch or disturb the turtle.
- Turn off all lights at night on the beach - it's the law.
- Do not take flash photos of turtles.
- Never throw trash into the water.
- Volunteer for beach cleanups.
- Participate in organized turtle watches.
- Never buy products made from endangered species.
- Say NO! to plastic. Use recyclable shopping bags and drinking bottles. The ocean is littered with 47,000 pieces of plastic per square mile.
- Pick up discarded fishing line - it takes 600 years to bio-degrade.
- Buy a Sea Turtle Specialty License Plate for your vehicle. Revenue from the sale of sea turtle license plates goes to support sea turtle research, conservation and education in Florida.
- If you find an injured or dead turtle in Florida, call the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Law Enforcement at (1-888-404-FWCC).
About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America's 401 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at www.nps.gov.