Frequently Asked Questions

Can I visit Amelia Island and watch turtles nesting?

We do not conduct turle walks to look for and observe sea turtles nesting.  Our volunteers survey the beach at daybreak each morning looking for signs that a turtle came ashore during the night.

Can I watch hatchlings come out of the nest and go to the water?

Hatchlilngs can emerge from a nest anuytime within a 10 day window, and anytime from sunset to sun up.  It would be almost impossible to observe a hatchling emergence.  Those who have witnessed this awesome sight have just been at the right place at the right time.

Do hatchlings need a full moon to find the ocean after they emerge from their nest?

This is a myth.  Hatchlings emerge from their nest at all phases of the moon and successfully find the ocean.  Although, a full moon is better competition to the landward lights that frequently disorient hatchlings causing their death.  We do invite the public to attend our excavations.  Excavations are conducted after a nest has already emerged.  An inventory is taken of the nest contents.  If live hatchlings are found trapped in the nest, they are released at that time.  Check the Excavation Schedule for times and locations.

How do hatchlings know the direction of the ocean when they emerge from their nests?

Sea turtles are born with the instinct to move toward the brightest directions.  Under natural conditions, this direction is the light of the open horizon.

How long do sea turtles live?

Sea turtles can live 50 years or more.

How long does it take before the eggs hatch?

Sea turtle eggs have an incubation period of 50 - 60 days.

How many nests are laid in Florida?

Along the Florida coast, sea turtles annually lay between 30,000 and 90,000 nests. Ninety percent of all the turtles that nest in the U.S., nest in Florida.

How many nests can a female turtle lay?

Females nest every two to three years, laying several nests in a season.  After digging a hole and depositing  about 80 -120 eggs, the females fill in the hole with sand and camouflage the nest before returning to sea.  She may return in about 12 - 14 days and lay another clutch.

When do sea turtles nest?

In NE Florida, sea turtle nesting season is from May 1 - October 31.  Leatherbacks begin nesting in south Florida in February.  Green turtles begin nesting later and can nest into September with their hatchlings emerging in November.

How many species of sea turtles are listed as endangered or threatened?

All five Florida species are listed as either endangered or threatened.  The Federal Endangered Species Act lists the green, leatherback, hawksbill, and Kemp's Ridley turtle as endangered and the loggerhead is listed as threatened.  This makes it illegal to harm, harrass, or kill andy sea turtle, their eggs, or hatchlings.  It is also illegal to import, sell, or transport turtles or their products.

How many species of sea turtle are in Florida?

Five species of sea turtle can be found in Florida:  Hawksbill, Kemp's Ridley, Loggerhead, Leatherback, and Green.

How much do sea turtles weigh?

Sea turtles range in size from the 75 -100 pound Kemp's Ridles to the 1,300 pound leatherback.

What should I do if I see a sea turtle nesting?

  • Stay behind her at a distance and remain quiet
  • Do not use any lights, including flashlights, flash photography, and video equipment
  • Do not put hands on or near the turtle.  Any distractions may frighten or disorient the turtle causing her to return to the sea before completing the nesting process.

What do hatchlings do after they leave their nests?

After the two-month incubation period, the hatchlings all dig out of their nest at the same time, a process that can take several days.  As a group, they leave the nest at night and crawl directly to the sea.  This firs trek imprints their home beach into the hatchling.  Once grown, the turtles are believed to return to lay their nests on the same beach.

What is a hatchlings chance of survival?

Only about one to three percent will survive to adulthood.  Hatchlings die of dehydration if they don't make it to the ocean quickly.  Birds, crabs, and other animals also prey on the young turtles.

What shoud I do if I find sea turtle hatchlings emerging on the beach?

  • Watch from a distance
  • Allow them to crawl to the water on their own
  • Keep all lights off
  • Do not touch them

What should I do if I find hatchlings wandering in a road, parking lot, or in directions other than toward the water?

Call the Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch at 904-583-1913

What can I do to help protect Florida's sea turtles?

  • Remove all beach furniture at night
  • Turn off porch and outdoor lights at night during turtle season
  • Fill in holes dug on the beach during the day
  • Do not leave fishing line behind.  Dispose of line responsibly
  • Reduce the amount of plastic garbage you produce
  • Oppose events that release balloons

What threatens sea turtle survival?

  • Natural predation
  • Human predation
  • Commercial fishing
  • Ingesting plastic and other litter and debris
  • Artificial lighting
  • Coastal armoring and destruction of nesting habitat
  • pollution

What should I do if I find a dead or injured sea turtle on the beach?

Call the Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch, Inc at 904-583-1913