MADEIRA BEACH, Fla. - As sea turtle nesting season gets underway, conservation groups are reminding beachgoers to fill in umbrella holes and remove other hazards from the beach to allow baby turtles the best chance at making their way to the water.
When baby sea turtles hatch, they instinctively pull themselves to the ocean, but the smallest manmade hazard can doom their journey before it starts.
In the Bay Area, loggerhead sea turtles come year after year to spots along the 20 miles of shoreline to dig their nests and bury their eggs.
Starting May 1, female turtles can be spotted at night, digging their nests in the dark, laying between 100 to 150 eggs at a time, and creating as many as eight nests a season, according to the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce.
Between 45 and 70 days after the eggs are laid, hatchlings emerge at night and follow the light of the moon to the water.
It does not take much to throw a baby sea turtle off its course. Every year, hatchlings fall victim to beach umbrella holes, artificial lights, beach furniture, and trash.
Last year, a Madeira Beach photographer and wildlife rescue volunteer answered the call to help some disoriented hatchlings back on the right path. As he rounded up the baby turtles, he came across on that had fallen into a beach umbrella hole.
He shared a photo of the struggling baby loggerhead in hopes of educating others.
For information about how to protect sea turtles during nesting season, visit https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/wildlife/sea-turtle/lighting/.