Turtles are often elusive creatures, but there are a few ways to spot Turtles in Florida if you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of these amazing animals.
How to Spot Turtles in Florida
One way to find turtles is to look for softshell turtles basking in the sun on logs or rocks. You may also see them swimming in ponds or lakes. Another way to find turtles is to look for their tracks. Turtle tracks usually have three toes pointing forward and one toe pointing backward.
If you see tracks like this, follow them until you find the turtle! With a little patience and perseverance, you’re sure to spot a turtle in Florida.
It’s possible to see Leatherback turtles, Hawksbill sea turtles, and Gulf Coast Spiny Softshell turtles. Read on to find out which species you might see in Florida’s coastal waters!
Then, make sure you don’t hurt the turtles by picking them up!
Gulf Coast Spiny Softshell Turtle
The Gulf Coast Spiny Softshell turtle is a distinctive creature. Its flat leathery shell and long, pig-like snout make it unique among softshell turtles.
These creatures can dig deep into the mud or water, which they use to feed on aquatic insects and nymphs. They have webbed feet that help them move quickly on land.
Their spined front shell gives them a “sandpaper” feel, which makes them a favorite of turtle lovers.
The Gulf Coast Spiny Softshell Turtle is native to the south-eastern United States and inhabits fast-flowing rivers in the piedmont region.
While this turtle is mostly found in rivers, it can also be found in ponds and lakes in the state. Its abundance is also high in large impoundments.
Despite its widespread distribution in Florida, it is also found in southern North Carolina, Virginia, and the Chesapeake Bay.
The Gulf Coast Spiny Softshell Turtle (GCSS) breeds in Florida’s waters. Females typically lay between six and twenty-five eggs per clutch.
The temperature of the eggs is not important for determining sex; rather, the turtle’s genetics determines the sex of the hatchlings. The GCSS is not a commercially viable fishery.
It is an incredibly unique and interesting creature.
Located in southern and central Florida, the Gulf Coast Spiny Softshell turtle is a medium to a large freshwater reptile.
Its carapaces do not have spines, and the skin-covered carapaces are characterized by sexual dimorphism. The carapaces of male Gulf Coast Spiny Softshell turtles measure 6.5 to fourteen inches, while the carapaces of females are about half that length. Males have thick tails, while females have thinner ones.
The number of leatherback turtles in Florida is decreasing, but the reasons aren’t clear. Leatherback turtles are considered endangered, and they have been declining in recent years.
In addition to declining numbers in Florida, leatherback populations have declined in the Northwest Atlantic, west Africa, and other coastal areas.
Poaching is believed to be a primary cause. As a result, a large percentage of leatherbacks re-migrate to other areas during their nesting season.
Female leatherbacks lay clutches of 70 to 100 eggs.
Females dig nests in sand dunes or on beaches and return to the water while the eggs incubate.
After 60 to 70 days, the hatchlings emerge from the nest and make their way to the sea. Survival rates are estimated at one in a thousand hatchlings. Leatherback turtles in Florida are the state’s only native species.
When it comes to conservation, the leatherback turtle is a prime example. During the fall, these turtles migrate to mid and southern Atlantic oceans for foraging grounds.
In Florida, they spend the winter months nesting. These creatures have the ability to dive over 1,000 meters, but spend much of their time at the surface, stopping for breath every five to ten minutes. This means that they require a large amount of food to maintain their metabolism.
The female leatherback lays eggs between March and July. Leatherback turtles tend to nest more than once a year, and they typically deposit multiple clutches.
Each clutch contains an average of 73 fertilized eggs and twenty yolkless eggs. Leatherback turtles nest primarily on the eastern coast of Florida.
The Statewide Atlas of Sea Turtle Nesting Occurrence and Density provides information about the density of leatherback turtle nests on individual beaches.
Hawksbill Sea Turtle
There are few other species that nest on beaches, and hawksbill sea turtles in Florida are no exception. They prefer sandy beaches with vegetation close by, where the warm Gulf Stream current passes.
This makes the nesting area a perfect place for hawksbill hatchlings to spend the summer.
The nests of hawksbills in Florida are also a favorite destination for tourists and nature enthusiasts alike.
The hawksbill turtle is a threatened species that was once common in the state. Sadly, it has been hunted almost to extinction for its shells, which are used for jewelry and other products. Luckily, hawksbills have reestablished a few nests in Florida, as well as in Mexico.
They can be found in the Florida Keys and Canaveral National Seashore.
This endangered species is found throughout the Gulf of Mexico and the southern Gulf of Mexico, where the climate is mild and ideal for nesting.
This species is also protected by Florida law. You can help protect these beautiful creatures by not harming them in any way.
Hawksbill sea turtles in Florida are protected under federal law and have been protected by state and local governments since 1974.
The turtles are listed as critically endangered on the U.S. endangered species list since 1970, and they have been listed as threatened on the international level.
The main threat to the species is the harvesting of its shell, which is also known as tortoise shell. People use the shell to make hair ornaments and other items.
The hawksbill sea turtle is the most common species in Florida waters. Its broad head is the most distinctive feature, and its long, pointed bill resembles that of a hawk.
This large and beautiful species lives on the ocean floor for more than a century and is migratory.
Hawksbill sea turtles nest during the night and lay 3-5 clutches of eggs per breeding season.
While nesting, hawksbill sea turtles are known to return to their birth beach.
Loggerhead Musk Turtle
A loggerhead musk turtle is one of the most commonly seen species of turtles in Florida. These reptiles are members of the family Kinosternidae.
Their light-colored backgrounds are accented with dark spots and stripes on the neck and head. These turtles live in the waters of Florida and the surrounding states. They can be spotted from the shoreline or in a nearby park.
The loggerhead musk turtle is a resident of northern Florida.
They reach sexual maturity in about five to six years. Follicular enlargement begins in late August and continues through June.
Ovulation occurs from October through July.
The egg is an average size of 28.5 mm in length but is not correlated with the length of the plastron. Ovulation occurs in late July and lasts for approximately 101 days. Clutch size varies from one to five.
Unlike common musk turtles, the loggerhead musk has a distinctive head shape. The carapace of an adult loggerhead musk turtle is approximately eight to thirteen centimeters long.
The carapace of a loggerhead musk turtle is similar to that of a Razorback musk turtle, but its carapace has a higher dome shape.
Its barbels are located on the chin and dorsal region.
The reproductive cycle of the loggerhead musk turtle is not well studied. The reproductive cycle of this species is largely dependent on the latitude, local population, and year variation. It takes approximately six years for a female to reach reproductive maturity.
A female musk turtle reaches 60 mm plastron length and begins vitellogenesis. Ovulation continues until the follicular recession, which usually occurs in August. The average clutch size is three to five eggs per female per year.
Suwannee Cooter Turtle
The habitat of the Suwannee Cooter is at risk due to human activity, and this risk will only increase with climate change.
The water quality can become degraded because of sedimentation and the impact of severe precipitation events, and climate change will increase extreme temperatures, which will affect the fitness of the Suwannee Cooter.
Other threats to the species’ habitat are changes in water temperature and saltwater infiltration. Increasing sea levels will increase the risks of habitat destruction, and the Suwannee Cooter’s survival depends on the ecosystem.
The Suwannee cooter mates from January to June. To mate, the male positions his neck over the female’s head and vibrates his foreclaws.
The female, if receptive, will accept the male. If she does not respond to this mate, the male will swim away. Nesting occurs from March to August when the females require ample sunlight to develop their eggs.
The female Suwannee Cooter can lay up to six clutches of eggs per year, ranging from eight to twelve.
Although the Suwannee Cooter is geographically limited, it lives throughout the rivers of northeastern Florida. It faces threats such as taking for human consumption, degradation of water quality, and boat strikes.
Its habitat is also under threat due to development, as the Alafia River drains into Hillsborough Bay. In Florida, the population of this turtle has been reduced by the impact of human activity.
The Suwannee Cooter is the state’s official turtle.
It’s common in lakes, streams, and ponds throughout the Southeastern Coastal Plain, where it prefers soft, sandy bottoms and abundant vegetation.
While the Florida Cooter is largely herbivorous, it is also social and opportunistic. The number and quality of its habitat are currently under study.
What Turtles Can You Find in Florida?
Yellow-bellied sliders are some of the most common turtle species in Florida.
These reptiles are usually found near water and bask regularly.
They have brown to olive-colored shells and yellowish plastrons and prominent yellow stripes behind their eyes. They are considered vulnerable to extinction because of the destruction of their habitat, and this is why conservation efforts are important.
However, if you happen to spot one of these turtles, you should not be alarmed.
The largest sea turtle in Florida is the loggerhead. This animal has a thick shell and a bulky log-like head. It weighs approximately 350 pounds and measures up to three feet long.
It has two clawed flippers on its front and narrows toward the back. It also has a large tail.
You can’t tell which one is a juvenile unless you touch its shell or see it move.
The red-eared slider is another Florida native. It is similar to the red-eared slider but lacks the red markings behind its ear. It is native to the northern half of the state and primarily inhabits slow-moving rivers.
Red-eared slider turtles feed on fish, insects, and aquatic plants. They make excellent pets. There are many more types of turtles in Florida than you can count.
Gulf Coast Spiny Softshells are endemic to the Panhandle region and parts of South Carolina. Their shells are dark olive with a spotted pattern. They have a classic tapered snout.
They live between 40 and 60 years and grow up to be around five to 10 inches long. Their snouts are dark and prominent. They prefer muddy or sandy bottoms.
What is the Most Common Sea Turtle in Florida?
Loggerheads are the most common sea turtles in Florida. The nesting season occurs between May and October. You can see the nests at any sandy beach in Florida, but Islamorada, between mile markers 72 and 83, is a particularly good place to see turtle nests.
Loggerheads can live up to 35 years and mate in the same coastal waters every two or three years. They often come back to the beach where they were born, using the earth’s magnetic field to guide them.
There are many ways to spot turtles in Florida. One way is to look for them basking in the sun on logs or rocks. Another way is to look for them swimming in ponds or lakes. You may also see them walking along the shoreline in search of food.
If you are lucky, you may even see a turtle laying eggs in the sand. Keep your eyes peeled and you are sure to spot some turtles during your next visit to Florida!