The extent of the development on the beaches of Broward County and associated bright lights from condos, streets, and highway traffic have caused many problems for sea turtles, and hatchlings in particular. Most of the nests in Broward County were relocated by permitted personnel to a safer beach area or hatchery where hatchlings could exit the nest and transverse the beach to the water on their own. Nests that were not moved were those that are already on safe beaches, although those were few and far between. As of 2006, this management strategy was largely removed from the Broward County program. With the active enforcement of local lighting ordinances now being aggressively pursued, safer beach areas were created and have eliminated the relocation of most nests.
Today, there is a hands off approach, leaving as many nests in situ (natural position) as possible. Relocation of eggs only occurs when the eggs are deposited in an area that compromises the success of egg development (below the high tide line, where the nest will be washed away, etc).
Incubation of Loggerhead and Green nests take about 45-55 days. Leatherback eggs take a bit longer, reaching upwards of 70-80 days. . After this period, the hatchlings emerge from the nest en masse and, using various environmental and instinctual cues, quickly migrate to the water's edge. If artificial lights are lighting the beach the hatchlings can disorient, crawl the wrong direction, and possibly never make it to the water.
In areas with coastal lighting and high disorientation rates we now place restraining cages over the egg chamber of nests. The black mesh restraining cage is installed close to hatching range. It is monitored every day where the seaward door is opened at dawn and closed at dusk while checking for hatchlings throughout the night. This cage collects the hatchlings so they do not disorient towards the artificial lights into streets, storms drains, and other dangerous areas. During the checks if our authorized personnel come across hatchlings inside the cage piled on the west side of the cage they will remove the hatchlings and conduct a controlled release.
Once in the water, the hatchlings swim directly out to sea facing a perilous struggle to survive to adulthood. The best scientific estimates available indicate that only one in 1,000 to 10,000 hatchlings will survive (anywhere from 20-50 years) to become an adult sea turtle.
Please call the Sea Turtle Emergency line (954-328-0580) if you find hatchlings in Broward County headed away from the sea, on the road, or in a restraining cage.
Our program, in conjunction with Anne Kolb Nature Center at West Lake Park in Hollywood, conducts public hatchling releases from July through August ever Wednesday and Friday as part of the Sea Turtles and Their Babies Program. Please contact them directly for reservations (954-357-5161 ext 0), which are required.