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Loggerhead and Green Turtles, and to a smaller extent Leatherback Turtles, are returning to the ocean beaches of Brevard County, Florida in order to lay their eggs. The Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge (so named for Archie’s extraordinary contributions to sea turtle conservancy), encompasses over 20 miles of ocean beachfront from Melbourne Beach south to Wabasso Beach. It is estimated that 25% to 35% of all Loggerhead and Green Turtle nests in the US are here. Leatherback Turtles, the largest and rarest, build nests here as well. 15,000 to 20,000 turtles make their way onshore beginning in March to build nests to lay their eggs. After approximately 55 days, hatchlings begin to emerge, all 2 million of them! The tiny turtles emerge from their nests and orient themselves toward the brightest visible light on the horizon in an attempt to find the sea.
Lights from beachfront homes and businesses that shine or reflect on the beach can disrupt this instinctive process and cause the hatchlings to crawl toward the brighter light of the structure instead of the sea. This can cause the turtles to get tangled in dunes, be eaten by predators or die from exhaustion. It is estimated that only 1 in a 1000 turtles reach their intended destination and survive to reproductive age of 20 to 25 years old.
Contributed by: Dianne Date