All things Siesta Key. Stories, news, and event information about Sarasota, Florida's beautiful beach.
Siesta’s Famous Sea Turtles
Florida’s Original Residents
When you think about escaping to paradise for a dream vacation, usually the local ecosystem and wildlife don’t immediately come to mind. However, just like any other naturally beautiful environment, the elements of our beautiful ecosystem need to be protected. This is never more obvious than with Florida’s sea turtles. These darlings of the gulf coast need our help now more than ever, and the experts at the Best Western Siesta Key are huge advocates for keeping our marine life healthy and thriving. We hope you are, too, so we’ve compiled some tips, facts, and advice about how to do your part to protect our sea turtles while you’re vacationing with us.
Loggerhead Sea Turtles
If you happen to encounter a turtle while walking along our coast, it’s likely the species you’re looking down at a is a loggerhead turtle. The most common sea turtle in Florida, the loggerhead turtle is known for its massive head and oversized body. Weighing in around 275 pounds on average and spanning three feet in width, these gentle giants have claws on the front of their flippers for cracking the shells of crabs, clams, and other armored animals they eat. Their brown tips and creamy yellow bellies help them blend in with the sand and water around them. Their flippers don’t just help them swim, but they’re also super helpful for digging giant nests in the sand where they lay hundreds of eggs each year.
Nesting & Hatching
During sea turtle nesting season in Sarasota (May through October), loggerheads emerge from the coastal waters onto the beach to lay their eggs in nests they’ve dug in the sand. Nesting areas are barricaded by stakes and yellow tape to prevent beachgoers from walking through them and damaging the fragile eggs. Loggerheads bury their eggs in the sand, so they are hidden and easy to step on. To prevent this, sea turtle experts find and mark the nests immediately to help beach-combers avoid any unintended destruction.
If you come upon one of these nesting sites, you can support our sea turtle conservation efforts by picking up any litter near the nests, filling in holes in the sand between the nests and the water, or simply avoid contact with the nests altogether. Signs posted around nesting sites warn visitors that’s it’s against the law to touch or disturb sea turtle nests. Do your part in protecting our beautiful marine wildlife by respecting their habitat.
Dim the Lights
Sea turtles are incredibly sensitive to light, which plays a big role in helping them survive and thrive. Because they do not have many predators, humans are one of the biggest threats to sea turtles. Now, however, we are trying to reverse that threat by assisting these beautiful creatures in their age-old habit of nesting, hatching, and returning to the sea.
Once a sea turtle lays her eggs, she returns to the water and leaves her babies behind to hatch and find their way to the ocean on their own. Light shining on the eggs can cause them to hatch prematurely, so be careful to not shine flashlights or cell phone lights directly at the nests. When the baby turtles do hatch, their natural instinct is to crawl toward the moonlight reflected on the water in their quest to return to the sea right away. With so many hotels, restaurants, and businesses cropping up along our shores, baby turtles can get confused and move toward parking lots and traffic lights instead of the water. To reduce the chances of this happening, most shoreline businesses dim their lights in the evening during sea turtle hatching season, as we all want to see them make their way home safely.
See Them Up Close
To see loggerhead turtles up close, visit Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium while you’re in town. Experience the amazing sea life found in our area, including the “Sea Turtles: Ancient Survivors” exhibit. You’ll get to see some of our local rescued sea turtles thriving in our aquarium, and you might even get to touch one of them. Mote Marine is also a great way to safely experience plenty of other local marine life being rehabilitated. Along with sea turtles, jellyfish, stingrays, and dolphins are among our favorites.
Watch Them Hatch
If you hope to witness in person the magic of sea turtles hatching and their instinctive return to the water, contact Mote Marine for watch parties where you can participate in helping lead the baby turtles to the water. It’s an experience you won’t forget.
Visiting Florida and the Siesta Key area offers so much more than just relaxing on the beach. Our area has a rich and thriving ecosystem that is home to thousands of marine and wildlife. Living in harmony with nature by protecting and respecting natural habitats goes a long way to preserving this beautiful area for generations to come. At the Best Western Siesta Key, we’ll help you get the most out of your Florida visit and guide you to all the wonderful sites and typical Florida experiences that usually only locals enjoy.