Thursday, March 05, 2009

Our Sea Turtle Friends

My daughter and I just enjoyed these wonderful books about Sea Turtles . . . followed by a lively conversation of how these wonderful animals are protected near our new Florida home.

The Sea Turtle Nesting Season begins May 1st and runs through October 31st in Gulf County, Florida. WindMark Beach is the ONLY community in the state of Florida to earn a "Wildlife-Friendly" certification because of its efforts to preserve these and other wonderful creatures sharing their coast. WindMark uses specialized lighting to keep lights off the beach and the adjacent wildlife community within the Village.Hatching sea turtles move toward the brightest light on the beach at night, because they instinctively believe it is the moon shining over the water. At WindMark Beach, the developers ensured the Village lighting is not even visible from the beach.

Bill Lynn, a wildlife biologist employed by WindMark and St. Joe Company, says that, "Protecting the environment is important to our company. Not only that, our customers want to be environmentally friendly."
While most coastal counties have lighting ordinances, it is still an issue on some beaches. Some highly imperiled turtle species, such as giant leatherback turtles and loggerheads, nest on these same beaches.When the hatchlings dig to the surface, normally at night, and see street lights, they head toward them and away from the water, which often means they die.

In 2003 biologists determined over 79,300 hatchling sea turtles on Florida coasts either died or had to be picked up and returned to the water after heading inland. Lights displayed on beaches also disrupt the nesting habits of several species of shorebirds, making them more vulnerable to predation.

Dean Gallagher was the FWC biologist who worked with St. Joe and their
wildlife-friendly certification for WindMark Beach. He now works with the
University of Hawaii. He has high praise for the way everyone connected with the
project embraced the idea of making it a wildlife-friendly development.

"Instead of using 40-foot poles for street lighting, they used low, 12-foot
poles with full-cutoff fixtures. They were so well-done you can't see the
lighting from the beach," Gallagher said. ~Port St. Joe Star,
May 9, 2007

This summer, families who visit Summer Dream will be able to observe loggerhead turtles in their natural habitat. You may even choose to join the Gulf Coast Conservation Association's efforts to preserve this endangered species, by signing up to perform "Turtle Patrol" during your stay. To learn more about the sea turtles in Gulf County, or to volunteer during your WindMark Beach vacation, visit the GCA Turtles website.

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