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What to do if You See a Sea Turtle

Sea turtle on beach

Summer is a busy time for Florida beaches with both people and sea turtles sharing the sand. Though turtle nesting and hatching usually happens in the middle of the night, it is very possible for humans to cross paths with nesting females or hatchlings on their way to the sea.

Should this happen to you, it is important to stay out of the sea turtle's way. Don't put your hands on or near the turtle. Any distractions may frighten or disorient them, causing a female to return to the ocean before finishing her nest, or misdirecting a hatchling away from the water.

Light can also cause a major disruption in the natural behavior of the turtles. Don't use any flashlights, flash photography, or video equipment. This can cause a female to false crawl or lead a hatchling away from the water.

baby sea turtles on the beach

Hatchlings must overcome many obstacles in their natural habitat to successfully reach adulthood. After hatching, they must dig out of their nest, a process that may take a few days. Once out, predators feed on them, and any misdirection may leave them lost and, soon, dehydrated by the morning sun. Enjoy the experience from a distance. Don't make it any more difficult for sea turtles to survive.

If you come across a sea turtle that is stranded or dead; a hatchling that is wandering in a road, parking lot; or directions other than the water; or if you see someone disturbing a nest or turtle, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Division of Law Enforcement at 1-888-404-FWCC or *FWC from your cell phone.

Unless noted otherwise, all photographs are credited to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Florida Sea Turtle Salvage and Stranding Network (FLSTSSN).