Information About Sea Turtles: What to Do if You Encounter a Sea Turtle

In Florida and other states where sea turtles nest, turtle watches are conducted by trained and permitted individuals. The goal is to educate people about sea turtles through direct contact, without disturbing the turtles.

If you are interested in going on a sea turtle watch, visit Sea Turtle Watches at the Barrier Island Center to learn more.

Sometimes people encounter sea turtles on their own while walking on the beach at night during nesting season. If this happens to you, here are some simple rules to follow:

  • Do not walk on the beach with a flashlight or shine a light in the sea turtle’s face. The light may cause the female to abort the nesting process, or other sea turtles nearby may be discouraged from nesting if there are lights on the beach.
  • Do not take pictures using flashes. This high-intensity light can be even more disturbing than the flashlights.
  • Stay clear and out of sight of the turtle until she begins laying eggs, otherwise you may scare her back into the sea.
  • For your safety, stay away from the turtle’s head. Sea turtles, especially loggerheads, have very strong jaws and can harm you if provoked.
  • Do not handle the eggs or put any foreign objects into the nest. You can introduce bacteria or injure the eggs.
  • Do not handle or ride the sea turtle. In addition to being illegal, you may injure the turtle or cause her to leave without finishing nesting.
  • Do not disturb tracks left by turtles. Researchers sometimes use the tracks to identify the type of turtles that nested and to find and mark the nests.
  • Do enjoy the experience, and remember it for the rest of your life.

If you find a dead, sick, or injured sea turtle, call the stranding number in your area. Please be prepared to answer the following questions:

  1. What is the exact location of the animal?
  2. Is the turtle alive or dead?
  3. What is the approximate size of the turtle?
  4. Is the turtle marked with spray paint? (This may indicate that the turtle has been previously documented.)
  5. What is the location of the closest access point to the turtle?

If the turtle is alive, you may be asked to stay with it until help arrives.

Call FWCC’s 24-hour Wildlife Alert Number at 888-404-3922. From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., you may also page the FWCC directly by dialing 800-241-4653 and entering the ID# 274-4867. Please be sure to include your area code when paging.

Call the Georgia Stranding Hotline at 1-800-2SAVEME (1-800-272-8363).

North Carolina:
Call the NMFS SEFSC Beaufort Laboratory Stranding Hotline at 252-444-8064.

South Carolina:
Call the South Carolina Stranding Hotline at 800-922-5431.

Puerto Rico:
Call the Puerto Rico Stranding Hotline at 787-538-4684 or 787-645-5595.

Not in one of the areas listed above? Check the US National Marine Fisheries Service Stranding Network. For international locations visit the Stranding Network Locator.