337 Days To The Mountain – Loggerhead Turtles

Having a great weekend in Sebastian – it is hotter than normal, but I guess that is to be expected in the dog days of summer!  Where did that phrase come from anyway?  The dog days of summer… We saw a dog on the beach yestereday during our 1.5 mile walk. She was a Labridoodle walking  and playing  along in the sand with her owner.  All of a sudden this large pooch layed down and refused to get up.  I asked her owner if we could do anything to help – I even offered up my bottle of water to hydrate her. We were sweating bullets in 90 degree weather – she must have been really hot in that fur coat!  She finally perked up and made her way down the beach – a lot slower on the walk home!!

We checked in on the Loggerhead Turtle nests along Sebastian Beach yesterday.  There are so many nests it tends to look like a construction site with the stakes and orange flags. We are so fortunate to have the opportunity to share in the nesting cycle.  It is magical to be a part of something that has been occurring for literally millions of years!

The Loggerhead is the most common sea turtle in Florida.  They are air-breathing reptiles and their name refers to their large head. They have graced the earth for millions of years with little serious threat to the species, until recently.

Mature Loggerhead’s can weigh 250 to 400 pounds and adults can grow to more than 3 feet long.  These reptiles feed on mollusks, crabs and small animals that encrust in the reefs and rocks in our oceans.  I have just read that as many as 70,000 turtle eggs in up to 800 nests will be removed by volunteers along the Florida Panhandle and Alabama beaches to save them.  Among them, The Kemp’s Ridley turtle which is considered to be critically endangered.  This breed of turtle is one step away from being extinct in the wild.  BP could be facing fines of $50,000 per endangered animal killed!

Loggerhead Turtle Nest on Sebastian Beach
This Loggerhead Nest Will Produce 100-125 Hatchlings

The Loggerhead comes out of the water at night during the months of  May through August to select her spot to nest along the beaches.  The nest that she makes is about 18 – 22 inches in depth and it will take her more than an hour to dig the nest with her back flippers.  She will lay between 100 to 125 eggs per nest, and she may have more than one nest per season.

The incubation period of the eggs in their sandy nest is from 55 – 65 days.  It amazes me how the eggs can live in such hot temperatures.  I can hardly stand that hot walk across the beach to get to the waters edge – but they make it!  The hatching process may extend through October and the little hatchlings are only about 2-inches long when they crawl out of the nest and enter the ocean for the first swim.

We are so fortunate to witness this magical event and a special thanks should go to the many volunteers all up and down the beaches who mark the nest and monitor their progress during the nesting period, to help ensure that they will indeed make it!

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