When Is Turtle Season In Siesta Key?

Turtle season in Sarasota represents the start of an exciting period during which one of the ocean’s most precious and endangered creatures make their way to the shores of Siesta Key and Sarasota to lay their eggs. If you time your visit correctly, you may be able to see some on your next stay in a Siesta Key vacation rental.

Sea turtles are among the most primordial groups of reptiles on earth. Scientists have traced their existence back to the dinosaur era – approximately 230 million years ago. It goes without saying that these creatures play an important role in the environment, and their total loss could have a devastating impact on the ocean.

There are 7 sea turtle species: the Leatherback turtle, Green turtle, Loggerhead turtle, Hawksbill turtle, Kemp’s Ridley turtle, Olive Ridley turtle, and the Flatback turtle. At least three of them make their way to Sarasota’s shores each year – the loggerhead (endangered), green turtles (endangered), and Kemp’s Ridley (a very rare endangered species).

Baby sea turtles in the sand
Photo from Pexels

Turtle nesting season in Siesta Key and Sarasota occurs between May 1st and October 31st every year. This represents 6 months of activity where sea turtles of the above-mentioned species emerge from the Gulf waters at night to lay their eggs on the white sand beaches on Siesta Key before they once again return to the sea.

The female turtles come ashore a few weeks after mating, usually during high tide. They dig holes in the sand and lay their eggs. They then cover the eggs with sand to protect them from predators and harsh temperatures.

On average, they create around 8 nests during the nesting season with each nest holding around 100 eggs. Once done, they retreat back into the sea never to return again.

After 55 days of incubation, the baby turtles break out of their shells and instinctively scramble towards the sea to join their kin. At this stage, they are usually about 2 to 3 inches long – about the size of a golf ball.

When the eggs hatch, the hatchlings disperse egg matter to the surface which encourages mild vegetation growth for other smaller sea creatures.

Witnessing the adorable baby turtles clumsily make their way to the gulf waters is a memorable and enriching experience.

Why is Turtle Season Important in Sarasota and Siesta Key?

The importance of turtle season cannot be underestimated – these creatures play a critical role in marine ecosystems and maintain their health. They eat seagrass, helping to maintain seagrass beds and reducing their overgrowth. They also feed on marine sponges, which compete with reef-building corals.

Unhatched eggs are also an excellent source of nutrients for small organisms. Every year they enrich beach eco-systems with a variety of nutrients. Sea turtles also act as hosts to epibionts and help deliver food to select fish species.

In general, they maintain a balanced food web, and with several species being endangered due to climate change, the loss of nesting habitat, and commercial fishing, protecting them is of the utmost importance.

sea turtle swimming

How to Watch for Turtles in Florida and Siesta Key

Siesta Key’s beaches are home to one of the largest populations of loggerhead turtle nestlings. The island also has a significant number of green turtles. Occasionally lucky visitors can also stumble across a handful of Kemp’s Ridleys – the rarest sea turtle breed known to man.

One of the best sites to observe turtle nesting on Siesta Key is on the appropriately named Turtle Beach which is located near our Siesta Key condo rentals. Other sites frequented by female turtles include several along the 35-mile stretch of beach in the Sarasota-Manatee County that begins from Venice Beach to Longboat Key.

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Sea turtle patrol volunteers in 2017 observed more than 5,000 Loggerhead and Green turtle nests in these areas combined. The highest numbers of new nests were reported in the month of June.

If you’re on the beach or near it, keep your eyes peeled for the tiny nestlings as they crawl to the ocean. If you’re on a boat, consider wearing polarized sunglasses as these can sharpen your view enabling you to better observe these creatures under water.

How to Keep Turtles Safe During Turtle Season

Unfortunately, not all hatchlings make it to their designated habitat, and a very small number survive to adulthood.

To assist the turtles during this season and ensure their survival visitors are encouraged to:

  • Avoid making inappropriate or loud noises with the turtles around.
  • Restrain from touching the turtles.
  • Avoid using flashlights.
  • Fill up holes that might cause them to get trapped.
  • Keep dogs on a leash while on the beach and away from turtles.
  • Properly dispose of trash to make it easier for the turtles to navigate.
  • Avoid any form of action that might disorient the turtles.

To protect the turtle nests visitors are encouraged to avoid placing beach furniture and other accessories close to marked or suspected nests. A distance of at least 5 feet between the furniture and the nest is advised.

In any circumstance, do not interfere with the nesting process.

Why Does Light Confuse Turtles?

Sea turtle hatchlings make their way to shore by the guide of moonlight, as traveling by night is safer for them. Any artificial lights can disrupt this natural process and disorient them, causing them to walk in the wrong direction from the ocean and eventually die.

If you’re wondering how to keep turtles safe during turtle season, only quietly observe from a distance if you see a hatchling making its way to the ocean.

If you find a hatchling heading the wrong direction, or a sick or injured sea turtle or hatchling, do not interfere and call the Mote Marine Sea Turtle Conservation’s 24-hour line at (941) 988-0212 for further instruction.

Six of the seven turtle species are endangered due to human influences. Protecting these species should not only be encouraged but prioritized as well.

Book your stay in a gorgeous Siesta Key vacation rental during turtle season and view these incredible creatures from afar!

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Crystal Sands Condominiums
6300 Midnight Pass Road
Siesta Key, FL 34242

Toll-Free: 888-419-1446
Local: 941-349-7007

Fax: 941-346-1963

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