Sea Turtle Nesting Season Begins May 1
Sea turtle nesting season begins May 1, and St. Johns County officials are asking residents, visitors, and businesses to help protect natural habitat by observing all nesting season laws and regulations. The beaches of St. Johns County are home to several species of endangered or threatened sea turtles.
From May 1 to Oct. 31, St. Johns County staff will close vehicular beach access gates at 7:30 p.m. and reopen them at 8 a.m. to allow nesting sea turtles to have a safe beach throughout the night.
Beach visitors can have a positive impact on nesting sea turtles by taking the following actions while enjoying the beach:
- Refrain from using fireworks and open fires.
- Remove ruts and sand castles at the end of your beach day.
- Do not leave beach chairs or canopies on the beach overnight.
- Flashlights are strongly discouraged as they can harm sea turtles.
- Avoid entering dunes and conservation zones (15 feet seaward of the dune line).
- Refrain from releasing balloons, which can fall into the ocean and harm marine life.
- Never approach sea turtles emerging from or returning to the sea. Nesting sea turtles are vulnerable, timid, and can be easily frightened away.
Never push an injured animal back into the ocean. If you encounter an injured, sick, or deceased sea turtle, please call the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office non-emergency dispatch line at 904.824.8304. Leave only your footprints, providing the turtles with a safe and clean habitat to nest and hatch. St. Johns County is grateful to volunteers, residents, visitors, and businesses for supporting habitat conservation efforts and keeping our beaches beautiful. For more information, please call St. Johns County Habitat Conservation and Beach Management at 904.209.3740.
If You See a Turtle in Distress
If you find a sick / injured / dead sea turtle do not put them back into the water as they may need medical attention. Please call:
FL Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission's 24-hour Wildlife Alert Number: 1-888-404-FWCC (1-888-404-3922)
Check out our Share the Beach brochure (26MB). St. Johns County's guide to sharing and protecting the beaches.
Meet the Sea Turtles
Loggerhead (Caretta caretta) The most common sea turtle species in the southeastern United States, with the east coast of Florida being a very active breeding area. Loggerheads are easily identified by their log-shaped heads, which often measure around 10 inches. Their powerful jaw muscles aid them in crushing their food. Length: 38 - 45 inches, Weight: 250 - 400 lbs, Distribution: Subtropical areas, all oceans, Diet: Mollusks and crabs. ESA Status: Threatened.
Green (Chelonia mydas) Green turtles are not actually green. Their name refers to the color of their body fat. Young turtles eat a wide variety of foods, but the diet changes as they reach adulthood. As adults, green sea turtles are exclusively herbivores, or plant eaters. They eat algae and sea grass which turns their body fat green. Their heads are smaller than other sea turtle species, and the ends of their lower jaws are serrated. They have become endangered in Florida through centuries of being hunted for their meat and eggs. Length: 25 - 43 inches, Weight: 250 - 400 lbs, Distribution: Tropical and subtropical, Diet: Sea grasses and algae. ESA Status: Endangered.
Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) Leatherback turtles are the largest of all marine reptiles and are the only sea turtles without hard shells. Their black and white shells lack scales and are covered instead with a rubbery skin, distinguished by seven longitudinal keels or ridges. The leatherback unlike other species, can regulate it’s body temperature, enabling it to dive deeper and to migrate thousands of miles. Length: 60 - 100 inches, Weight: 710 -1300 lbs, Distribution: Nest in tropics, can wander to sub-Artic waters, Diet: Jellyfish. ESA Status: Endangered.
Kemp's Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii) The most endangered of all the sea turtles. The species was named after Richard Kemp, who helped discover them. These turtles come ashore in daylight and nest in groups. The are among the smallest sea turtles, with broadly ovalshaped shells, usually olive gray in color. Length: 23 - 26 inches, Weight: Up to 100 lbs, Distribution: Gulf of Mexico and North Atlantic, Diet: Crabs and mollusks. ESA Status: Endangered.
Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) Hawksbill turtles are named for their distinct hawk-like beaks. The thick overlapping scales of their shells were once sought after for jewelry, tortoiseshell combs, and other ornaments. Sadly, this demand has brought the species very near to extinction. Length: 28 - 36 inches, Weight: 80 - 140 lbs, Diet: Invertebrates, vegetation and sponges. ESA Status: Endangered.