Anna Maria Island – Loggerhead Turtles are the most common found nesting on our shores from May through October every year. There are five different species of Sea Turtles that can be found swimming in the waters around Anna Maria Island.
Loggerhead Turtles and More
Among Loggerheads the Gulf of Mexico is also home to Hawksbill, Leatherback, Kemp Ridley and Green Sea Turtles. Occasionally on Anna Maria Island we have had Green Sea Turtles nest, but most nests are from Loggerheads.
According to Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring the 2015 Sea Turtle nesting season brought Anna Maria Island 356 nests with 441 false crawls, or crawls not resulting in eggs, and a total of 12,571 hatchlings sent off to the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay.
Loggerhead turtles have a large head and powerful jaw suited for eating the hard shelled organisms that make up most of their diet. In addition to eating mollusks, whelks and conchs, and sea urchins Loggerheads feast on Jellyfish and are predominantly carnivores. After hatching, baby turtles make their way to the safety of sargassum, or large patches of floating sea grass, to feed on tiny floating organisms and invertebrates.
Loggerheads aren’t just found in Florida waters, but have a very large range including the sub-tropic and tropic regions of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. Occasionally Loggerheads have even been seen off the coast of Oregon, but do not nest on those coasts. These turtles can be found hundreds of miles off shore in open water, around coral reefs, as well as inshore lagoons, bays, salt marshes and large rivers.
Loggerhead turtles, also know by the scientific term as Caretta caretta, have almost heart shaped shells with a red tinged top and yellow underside. Males have a longer tail with their carpace, or top shell, narrowing towards their back end. Baby Caretta caretta have a dark grey or brownish carpace with a pale yellow underside, and their flippers are dark brown with white edges. This species of turtle is typically in the 200 pound range as adults, but can grow to 400 or more pounds in weight. The adult Caretta caretta has an average length of 36-38 inches with babies hatching at just a couple of inches.
Turtles and Ecosystem
Sea Turtles play an important role in their ecosystem, with their biggest threat coming from development of habitat. It is important to be mindful when visiting the beach during nesting season. Turtles need to navigate the coastline uninterrupted. Female Loggerheads usually come up on to the shore after nightfall to nest. Often they visit the same beaches where they were hatched. Caretta caretta nests can hold around 100 eggs, but are susceptible to predation from animals foraging on the coast.
When visiting gulf beaches between May and October it is important to flatten sandcastles, fill in sand holes and remove beach equipment and garbage. This is to ensure turtles and hatchlings don’t become entangled or trapped. For tips on sharing the beach during turtle season read our “Rules to Live by during Turtle Season“. If you see a turtle or hatchlings stay back, give the animal space so they don’t become stressed.
If you see an injured sea turtle or unmarked nest please contact the Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch at 941-778-5638. Also contact Florida Fish and Wildlife at 888-404-3922. If you find any type of injured wildlife contact Wildlife Inc. at 941-778-6324.
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