A sea turtle nest found Monday on a Naples beach is the earliest one recorded since Collier County’s Sea Turtle Monitoring Program began keeping track over two decades ago.
That’s according to Maura Kraus, the principal environmental specialist for the county.
Kraus said sea turtle nesting season officially begins May 1 and runs through the end of October. She said that because turtles don’t concern themselves with human calendars, it isn’t uncommon for them to start a little early.
"The earliest nest we have, previous to the one that we just had on Monday, was April 24, and that was 2002," Kraus said.
Kraus said sea turtles usually begin nesting when Gulf waters reach about 81 degrees, and for the last three weeks, the temperature in the Gulf has remained consistently at 78 degrees.
In Collier County, 966 turtle nests were recorded in the 2018 season in spite of the red tide outbreak.
Loggerhead sea turtles are the most prolific nesters on Southwest Florida beaches, and it can take 17 to 33 years for the species to reach sexual maturity. It may take a few decades for scientists to know the impacts of last year’s red tide on this threatened species.