Florida is the only state in the continental U.S. where leatherback turtles regularly nest.
|Photo Credit: Cheryl L. Sanchez
With the exception of a few nests on the west coast, leatherbacks nest almost exclusively on the east coast of Florida. In fact, about 50 percent of leatherback nesting occurs in Palm Beach County.
Leatherback sea turtles are named for their rubbery shell and are the largest sea turtles. Adults can weigh between 700 and 2,000 pounds and reach 4 to 8 feet in length.
Leatherback nesting in Florida occurs primarily from March through July. A female typically nests at intervals of two to three years, depositing multiple nests per season. Leatherbacks lay an average of 73 fertilized eggs about 25 yolkless eggs per clutch (Stewart et al., 2006). With the exception of a few nests on the west coast each year, leatherbacks nest primarily on the east coast of Florida. To view leatherback nest density by beach, see the Statewide Atlas of Sea Turtle Nesting Occurrence and Density.
Leatherback nest density (measured in number of nests per kilometer of beach) in Florida during the last five-year period (2011-2015). High-density beaches are those having the top 25 percent of density values (red); low-density beaches have the lowest 25 percent (yellow); and beaches with densities between these two categories are defined medium-density beaches (orange). White indicates beaches where leatherbacks were not observed to have nested during the five-year period.
View Statewide Leatherback Nesting Data (25 KB)
Stewart, K. and C. Johnson. 2006. Dermochelys coriacea — Leatherback Sea Turtle. In: Biology and Conservation of Florida Turtles, P.A. Meylan, Ed. Chelonian Research Monographs 3:144-157