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It is not difficult to help protect turtles during nesting season

It is that time of year again when shell-backed reptile visitors come to our beaches to lay their eggs.

At least one sea turtle nest has already been discovered on Cumberland Island, meaning the annual nesting season has begun.

From now until October, mostly loggerheads, but also some Kemps ridley and green sea turtles, will come to the same beaches they have been coming to for years to find a safe place for their eggs.

The key for the turtles is a safe place for their eggs. Sea turtles are one of the more unique and mysterious creatures in our oceans. They travel great distances and endure unending hardships in their journeys, but each year, the females come back to the area where they were born to nest. How they find their way and why they come back to the same places are largely unknowns.

The one thing we do know is that one of the main threats to their nests are humans. The beaches of the Golden Isles are just as attractive to us as they are to the sea turtles. But when beaches become crowded, turtle nests face more peril. There is a reason they seem to gravitate toward the less populated beaches like on Cumberland Island.

The good news is that keeping the nests safe is easy. Every nesting season, a group of hard working folks from DNR and volunteers from various organizations track and mark where every nest is. All we have to do is stay away from them. Do not disturb a sea turtle nest if you see one. Stay off the dunes, which shouldn’t be a problem since state law prohibits traversing them anyway.

Another helpful tip is to use turtle-friendly orange lighting, or no lights at all, while at the beach at night.

These simple requests seem to have been adopted by most people because turtle nesting numbers continue to rise and set new records. Easily more than 2,000 nests have been found in Coastal Georgia alone during each of the past few years. That shows that our efforts to let the turtles do what they have to are working.

Our local beaches will soon fill up with tourists and locals seeking a fun day in the sun. All we have to do is remember that we not only share the beaches with each other, we also share it with the incredibly diverse and special natural world around us.