Save the Sea Turtles

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Loggerhead turtle
SWIMMING WITH GIANTS: Loggerheads can weigh up to a hefty 400 pounds (courtesy, Juan Cuetos/Oceana)

Here are a few tips for making the most of your sea turtle experience:

1. Visit for an interactive map showing loggerhead, hawksbill, and leatherback nesting sites.

2. The best time to view nesting females or hatchlings emerging is late at night. Turtle tracks—wide indents in the sand similar to a single tire track—may lead you to a nesting site, though females will stop and dig several times before settling on the perfect location. Don't disturb the tracks.

3. Even though it will be dark when you search for turtle sightings, don't use flashlights or build beach fires. Hatchlings use light to locate the ocean and can become confused by other sources of illumination. Because of this, the state of Florida requires the use of low-watt streetlights invisible to the beach during the summer months.

4. If you do encounter a female digging her nest or laying eggs, watch from a respectful distance, behind her line of vision, and don't touch her or the eggs. You may notice that she appears to be crying. Scientists don't know for sure why turtles produce tears while nesting. They may be rinsing the sand from their eyes.

5. If you encounter a nest unexpectedly, let someone know. Many U.S. beaches are monitored by local sea turtle enthusiasts who will mark the nest in hopes of protecting it.

6. Clean up after yourself, especially plastic materials, which loggerhead sea turtles may mistake for jellyfish, their favorite food. Also, fill in any holes you dig that could create obstacles for turtles, as they are ever-so-slightly less agile on land than underwater.

7. Baby sea turtles, or hatchlings, are cute. About one finger's length long, thousands of sea turtles dart to the sea after digging from their mother's nests with tenacity and eagerness. Watch them trek to the water, but please don't touch them. Only about one in 1,000 sea turtles survive to adulthood, and that's just due to natural obstacles like predators. Once fully grown, sea turtles face other danger, such as fishing nets, which frequently catch them accidentally.

Published: 11 Apr 2008 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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