The beaches of southwest Florida have long been an important nesting area for the loggerhead sea turtle. Loggerhead sea turtles emerge from the Gulf of Mexico to nest on our beaches each summer (May 1 to August 31). Females crawl from the Gulf late at night to lay their nests. Loggerheads deposit, on average, 100 ping pong ball sized eggs in each nest. They usually lay 2 to 3 nests per season on a 2-3 year cycle. The eggs begin to hatch after about 60 days. As the sand begins to cool (usually late evening) the hatchlings scratch their way out of the nest emerging as a group. As the young turtles exit the nest they instinctually look for the natural light reflecting off the water.
Upon reaching the water, hatchlings begin their journey to the Atlantic Ocean. The first days of their lives are spent swimming directly offshore. Once there, the tiny loggerheads crawl into mats of drifting algae called sargassum. They spend the first few years of their lives passively drifting on their oceanic rafts feeding on almost anything they can catch in the sargassum. After a few years, the juvenile loggerheads leave their protective nursery and move to inshore feeding grounds where they spend the rest of their pre-adult lives. Ultimately, at the age of 12 – 30 adult female loggerhead sea turtles return to the beach of their birth to create nests and lay eggs of their own. Very few sea turtles survive to this point. Estimates predict that about one in a thousand hatchlings survive to adulthood.