This year’s sea turtle nesting season has proven to be one of the biggest yet at St. Pete Beach, leading to even more dangers for the reptiles.
Joseph Widlansky, better known as Turtle Joe, says he and volunteers at Sea Turtle Trackers are especially busy checking the 158 nests they’ve counted around St. Pete Beach and Shell Key.
That’s 64 more than last year.
“None of us were expecting this big of a rise,” he said.
They check the nests day and night, blocking them off with caution tape and a sign that warns people of the $500 state fine and potential jail time for disturbing them.
They also work with hotels and beach bars to equip them with the proper lighting that will deter sea turtles from heading their way.
“The turtles want to go toward the brightest thing they see,” said Widlansky, “and they will head in that direction instead of heading toward the water.”
He encourages people living or staying near the beach to use amber or red LED bulbs and close their curtains at night to avoid causing confusion.
He also urges people to avoid walking along the beaches with bright flashlights.
Sea turtle nesting season typically lasts from May until October.
Widlansky has already spotted turtles hatching from nests and hopes people can help prevent them from ending up were they shouldn’t.
“We can both share the beach,” he said, “we don’t have to be one of the other.”