Sea turtle nesting season starts on May 1 and runs through October 31, and early nesting activity has already been reported in Southwest Florida on Casey Key in Venice and Captiva Island here in Lee County.
It’s time now to remind all property owners about the lighting that is required to help protect turtles and hatchlings during nesting season. Conventional lighting scares females from nesting and disorients hatchlings away from the Gulf, leading to exhaustion, dehydration, and death from falling into storm drains, passing cars, and predators.
Long wavelength bulbs in downward directed fixtures that shield the bulb from the beach are encouraged everywhere on the island, because so many structures and vegetation that previously shielded light from the beach are gone due to Hurricane Ian.
It is also just as important to draw curtains closed at night. When it comes to windows and glass slider doors, sea turtle biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) have advised that “turtle glass” with 45% light transmittance may not be sufficient to adequately reduce light visibility to nesting and hatchling sea turtles. When installing new windows, choose a NFRC light transmittance specification of 30% or less.
Need professional help with bulbs and fixtures? The Sea Turtle Conservancy recommends Frontier Lighting and Synergy Lighting. Long wavelength bulbs can also be found online. Search for “sea turtle amber LED” and the bulb type that you need. It’s important to verify that the spectrum specifications of the bulb indicate 560 nm or greater.
One of the cheapest FWC certified wildlife lighting options that staff have found online is the “FEIT A19 Red Bulb” that screws into classic Edison fixtures. Please note, filter wraps, gels, and colored “party bulbs” are not compliant because sea turtles are sensitive to the emit light.
The Town will be patrolling the beach at night to monitor light pollution on sea turtle nesting habitat. Efforts will focus on identifying problematic lights and educating property owners on solutions. Property owners are encouraged to be proactive. Take a walk on the beach to see if property lighting is visible from the beach and install wildlife friendly lighting now rather than waiting for warning letters and enforcement citations.
The damage from Hurricane Ian has changed the Island's landscape, and so the main focus of patrols is the street lights that are the Town's responsibility, and a few condos/properties. (Less than 10% of campers/trailers leave their lights on all night.) For those off the beach, a safe alternative may be shielded motion sensing lights that activate and alert those nearby when there is movement on the property.
The Town’s Environmental Projects Manager Chadd Chustz is available for questions and light inspections. Contact him by email at email@example.com.
Learn more about turtles and nesting season at www.turtletime.org