Sea turtle nesting season: May 1st through October 31st.
 
 
 

 Beginging in early May and lasting until August, adult female loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) and Occasionally green sea turtes          (Chelonia mydas) journey to the beaches of the St. Joseph Peninsula.

 From sunset to sunrise they begin to crawl on to the beach to search for a place to dig their nest.

 Each turtle weighs several hundred pounds and will repeat this process about three times over the summer, waiting about two weeks in between  each nesting.

  
 

 Once the turtle finds a suitable nest site, she begins to dig a body pit by throwing sand using her flippers and rocking her body back and forth. She  then uses her rear flippers to dig a light bulb shaped hole known as an egg chamber.

 When the egg chamber is about 12 inches deep, the turtle begins to lay her eggs.

 The eggs are about the size of ping pong balls and each nest averages about 100 eggs each.

 However, the number of eggs laid can range from about 70 to almost 200 eggs.

 

 
 Once she has finished laying her eggs, the turtle covers the egg chamber by kneading the surrounding sand gently yet firmly with her surprisingly  dexterous rear flippers.
 She then begins to cover the body pit and surrounding area with her large front flippers to disguise the nest from predators.
 The mother turtle then crawls back to the ocean, returning to the beach only to lay more nests.
 

 After about 50 to 60 days of incubation, the eggs in the nest begin to hatch.

 Each turtle uses a small egg tooth called a "caruncle" to break the leathery shell of the egg.

 As more eggs begin to hatch, the hatchlings start to dig together towards the top of the nest.

 When all or nearly all of the eggs have hatched, the hatchlings normally burst from the sand in large numbers after the sand begins to cool from         the night air.          

 The hatchlings instinctively dash for the water, guided by the stars on the horizon.

 This is a very dangerous time for the little turtles, as many predators such as birds and raccoons may be waiting to pick them off as they head for    the gulf.

 
 

 Once they reach the water, the little hatchlings are still in danger of many predators such as sharks and other fish.

 The hatchlings swim vigorously for about 48 hours to reach a relatively safe area of the ocean.

 Here they find food and shelter among the floating sargassum.

 The hatchlings float around the ocean via the Gulf stream currents for several years before they are large enough to return to near shore waters for  food.

 When the turtles reach sexual maturity (about 20 to 30 years of age), they return to the breeding grounds of their parents  where  the females return  to the same beaches from which they were born to lay their own nests.

    

 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
 
 

 Sea turtle nests, as well as the hatchlings and adults, face threats in many different forms.

 Nests can be predated and destroyed by coyotes, raccoons and even ghost crabs. In certain areas, poaching from humans can still be a major threat  to the nest, hatchlings and nesting adults.

 A major concern, that is also preventable, is beach lighting. The bright white lights of street lights and houses on or near the beach can disorient  nesting adults and cause them to become unable to find their way back to the ocean.

 Similarly, when nests begin to emerge the hatchlings can also become severely disoriented.

 This can cause them to end up being  predated by other animals or even end up in pools, backyards and even highways.

 Installing "turtle friendly" lights or simply turning off outside lights and closing the blinds at night from May 1st to October 31st are simple ways for visitors to the beautiful beaches of the St. Joseph Peninsula to aid in the  conservation of these ancient animals.