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New challenges for St. Johns sea turtles

7:11 AM, Mar 28, 2013   |    comments
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ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. -- Four-year-old Rainer Eastman loves sea turtles for a simple reason.

"Because they are so awesome," said Rainer.

He and his mom, Catherine Eastman, help search the beach for sea turtle eggs during nesting season. The sea turtles aren't just popular with locals, they are also a sight for tourists too.

"My sons decided to come back because they like the beach so much and they keep hoping we will come back in time to see the sea turtles," said Becky Heabel from Illinois.

Last year, St. Johns County had a good year of around 650 loggerhead turtle nests, according to Katherine Eastman with Eastman Environmental.

"We are hoping to see an upward trend, but it is still kind of early to say things are improving," says Eastman.

But this year, the nests could face a setback.

The after effects of Hurricane Sandy and Tropical Storm Debby mean beach re-nourishment projects and repairs are underway across Florida's coast line. That changes the area where sea turtles normally nest.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is urging people to make sure all their equipment is off beaches at night so female turtles can lay their eggs. The FWC is also reminding people it is a felony to disturb any sea turtles, their nests or hatchlings.

There is one more rule Rainer Eastman knows well.

"Turn the lights off!" he said.

Lights on homes or beach equipment can confuse hatchlings.

As the endangered species works to build back its numbers, Catherine Eastman said it isn't about how fast the sea turtles can re-populate, it's keeping the population healthy and strong.

After all, slow and steady wins the race.

Sea turtle nesting season in St. Johns County officially begins on May 1st.

First Coast News

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