Turtle Time In Vero Beach
For humans, a beach offers fun and relaxation. For young sea turtles, it’s a tough trek beset by perils and predators.
The most dangerous time for any sea turtle is when the female must leave the safety of the water to nest. Slow and heavy and exposed to predators, she is driven by instinct to find a suitable nesting spot, dig an egg chamber, deposit and bury the eggs, then sweep sand over the entire area to hide her nest, before returning to the sea.
A sea turtle floats through a curling wave onto a moonlit beach. She presses her nose to the sand as though sniffing for a familiar scent. Alert for danger, she lumbers above the high-tide line, where the sand feels dry and safe for her mission. She scoops out a shallow well for her massive, reptilian body, settles in and begins to dig straight down, with powerful back flippers, until she has dug a bottle-shaped chamber at least two feet deep. And finally – her only reason for ever leaving the sea – she begins to deposit her eggs in the nest.
They bounce and tumble atop one another, more than a hundred pearl-white spheres the size of Ping-Pong balls. Now she fills the egg chamber with sand again. Still, her work is not done. Round and round she circles, her flippers flinging sand in all directions as she instinctively tries to hide the nest from predators. Only then will she return to the sea – unaware of the telltale tracks she leaves behind. She will not be present when her two-inch babies scramble from the nest nearly 60 days later. She will never see her young again, except, perhaps, by chance – two turtles passing in the night.
Read the entire article in the Summer 2012 issue