Lights out, turtles still hatching

(Florida Today) Leatherback nesting tends to wrap up in June. Loggerheads are winding down now. But baby greens and other sea turtle species still busting from their shells need darkness.

So officials urge coastal residents to continue to keep their beach lights off through the remainder of the nesting season, which ends Oct. 31.

Nighttime lighting can disorient hatchling turtles, luring them inland instead of seaward after emerging from their beach nests. As a result, they often die from dehydration, get run over or become prey for raccoons, crabs or ants.

So far, so good.

Very cool: Florida Keys webcam captures sea turtle hatch

"There have not been very many disorientation reports so far this season," said Llew Ehrhart, professor emeritus at University of Central Florida.

"The whole south end of the county, people are really doing well," Ehrhart said of compliance with the turtle lighting rules.

From May 1 through Oct. 31, all indoor and outdoor lights visible from the beach must be shielded, repositioned, replaced or turned off from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Bright beach lights, flashlights, camera flashes, video recorders and other types of artificial lighting aren't allowed, either.

Disturbing a sea turtle, its nests or hatchlings is illegal. Those who violate Brevard's marine turtle lighting ordinance face fines of up to $500 and six months in county jail.

Loggerhead sea turtles nests at the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge — considered a key barometer for statewide nesting trends — just passed 12,000 nests, Ehrhart said, a bit better than an average year.

Eggs in most nests will hatch by Oct. 31, although green turtles may continue hatching.

"Our hatch rates have been good," Ehrhart said.

Similar stories:

Tour de Turtles: Loggerheads crawl to ocean

Lurking red tide bloom generates gloomy outlook

Cute alert! Baby sea turtles crawl to the ocean

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