This month, the turtle walk program at Sebastian Inlet State Park broke an all-time, nightly record. Recent participants of the Sebastian Inlet State Park “Turtle Walk” made history by witnessing the magic of a loggerhead turtle lay her eggs on the same night that a leatherback and green turtle beached themselves to lay their eggs. The nesting of the leatherback was a record breaking eighth nest of its kind within the park this year.
“For the general public to witness a turtle laying her eggs on an apparently busy summer night for sea turtles is the best eco-tourist attraction in the state,” said Florida State Parks Director Mike Bullock. “The rush of adrenaline in this program is amazing on a successful crawl night. I can’t imagine being a part of a walk in which three different species of turtle come ashore.”
Sebastian Inlet State Park Service Specialist Ed Perry has been leading the parks visitors on the popular Get REAL! in Florida State Parks program for seventeen years. Never before has Perry witnessed such a busy and magical night. The first notification of a crawling turtle came from volunteer sea turtle scouts watching closely along the beaches. The turtle, a leatherback, was the first turtle of its kind to make a crawl during a turtle walk program and the record breaking eighth of the year.
The excitement of the group was obvious as Perry talked about the life of a sea turtle and the challenges of survival. Shortly after the first call came through, a second call was received – a green sea turtle was making a crawl to lay eggs. While two turtles in a night is a great event, a green and leatherback on the same night is quite a surprise. Would the popular loggerhead join the party?
Worldwide there are seven species of sea turtles. We are fortunate to have five of those seven species in Florida’s waters at any given time of the year. Of those five, summertime brings three to nest on our beaches with varied amount of regularity: leatherbacks; greens; and loggerheads. “To have all three species on a short stretch of beach during our organized program has been unheard of until now,” said Park Service Specialist Perry. “I have been leading tours for many years and being a part of this event was very exciting.”
Only a few minutes passed after the second call when a scout called to report a beautiful, crusty loggerhead, later named “Lily,” was just about to lay her eggs. Thanks to “Lily” the loggerhead, a green turtle and a leatherback, a picture perfect night was had by all at Sebastian Inlet State Park.
Along Sebastian Inlet State Park’s three miles of pristine beaches, 260 loggerhead sea turtle, one green sea turtle, and eight leatherback sea turtle nests have been seen this year alone.
Get REAL! is Florida State Parks newest community program. Get REAL!, which stands for Recreational and Environmental Adventures in Learning, focuses on using parks as “classrooms without walls.” The initiative builds on the parks’ broad multicultural, educational and recreational programs to enrich learning and integrate the use of state parks with local community programs. Get REAL! provides programs for school-aged children, seniors and economically disadvantaged individuals to boost interest and participation in outdoor recreation.
Nominated as a finalist for the Gold Medal award honoring the Nation’s Best State Park Service, Florida’s state park system is one of the largest in the country with 159 parks spanning more than 730,000 acres and more than 100 miles of sandy white beach. From swimming and diving in rivers and springs to birding and fishing or hiking and riding on natural scenic trails, Florida’s state parks offer year-around outdoor activities for all ages. Battle reenactments and Native American festivals celebrate Florida’s unique history, while art shows, museums and lighthouses offer a window into Florida’s cultural heritage.
To plan a visit to a Florida State Park, hike, bike or join a turtle walk, or to find out about park events and festivals, visit www.floridastateparks.org.
For more info, contact Matt Mitchell at (850) 245-2501
Source: Florida DEP