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Let’s talk turtles

Mound House staff host first Breakfast with a Biologist.

May 17, 2017
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

As part of a new series of programming through the Mound House, residents got the chance to grill a biologist about local environmental issues.

Environmental Educator Dexter Norris hosted the first, Breakfast with a Biologist, Friday morning Newton House park.

His topic of choice was sea turtles, as the beach is currently in sea turtle nesting season. Norris discussed interesting facts about the large reptiles, ongoing research into their migration habits, and ways beach residents could help the species.

Article Photos

Environmental Educator Dexter Norris hosted the first Breakfast with a Biologist Friday at Newton House.

Did you know?

There are three species of turtles that nest in this area. The loggerhead is the most common, and the only one that nests on Fort Myers Beach. Sanibel also has green sea turtles, and once had a rare leatherback nest.

Nesting season is May 1 through October 31. The mother turtles crawl ashore in the dark to dig out a nest high up in the sand, where the eggs will not drown. The sand incubates the eggs, which take 50 to 70 days to hatch. The temperature of the sand determines the sex of the hatchlings: cool for females, warm for males.

Scientists now know that sea turtles tap into the earth's magnetic field to navigate their way through open oceans and to their nesting sites. Many female turtles return to the same spot year after year. What science hasn't learned, however, is just how turtles are able to tune themselves to the magnetic field. Other animals use this sense, too: pigeons, spiny lobsters and red-spotted newts are just one example.

What can you do to help?

Lights OUT: close your blinds once it gets dark and turn off your porch lights. Hatchlings move toward the brightest source of light, and will get confused and move away from the water if lights are too bright. If turtles can't convince you, do it it save your wallet: the Town of Fort Myers Beach has an ordinance restricting lights after 9 p.m. during nesting season and you could be fined.

Don't build a new seawall. Seawalls impede the path of nesting females because they can't get high enough in the sand to find a safe place to lay eggs.

Pick up trash and remove beach furniture. Trash and furniture can harm sea turtles, too. It's a strenuous workout for a marine sea turtle to drag herself up onto the beach and they can easily get stuck in furniture or fall into holes beachgoers have dug and did not refill. Some species of turtles only eat jellyfish, and sadly end up mistaking plastic bags for their favorite snack.



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