Hutchinson Island, Florida, Sea TurtleWildlife on Hutchinson Island

Wildlife on Hutchinson Island, like most places in Florida is spectacular. No matter what your passion is when it comes to wildlife, you can find it here.

The perfect balance of the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River estuary create the ideal habitat for more than 2,200 marine and wildlife species (35 of these species listed as threatened or endangered) that depend on it's sandy beaches, sea grasses, coral reefs, mangroves, and warm temperatures. Manatees, dolphins, sea turtles and alligators are among the favorites for both tourists and Floridians, alike.

 


Sea Turtles


Hutchinson island is witness to many newborn babies including endangered sea turtles. Five species of sea turtles are found swimming in Florida's waters and nesting on Hutchinson Island beaches. Annually, sea turtles annually make between 40,000 and 84,000 nests along the Florida coast. The nests are monitored daily during the 109-day sea turtle nesting season (May 15 to August 31). Researchers recorded nests and nesting attempts by species, nest location, and date. During nesting season the nests are marked with wooden stakes and orange tape with the pertinent information.

  • Sea Turtle Tracks and Sea Turtle Nests on Huchinson Island, FloridaLoggerhead Turtles, the most common sea turtle in Florida weighs and average of 275 with a shell of length of 3 feet. 90 percent of all loggerhead nesting occurs in Florida. The majority of this nesting takes place on the east coast of Florida. Loggerheads typically nest in Florida from April through September. Each nest contains on average 100–126 eggs that incubate about 60 days.
     

  • Green Turtle weighs an average of 350 lbs and a shell of 3.3 feet. Green turtles nest on Florida’s beaches each year from June through late September. They can lay as many as 10 clutches, with about 12 days between each nesting. The average number of eggs in a clutch is about 115.
     

  • Leatherback Turtles weigh anywhere from 500 to 1500 lbs and are about 6 feet in length. Leatherback nesting in Florida occurs from April through July. They lay about 80 fertilized eggs and then covers them with a layer of about 30 unfertilized eggs. protecting the fertilized eggs from predators.
     

  • Baby Sea Turtle, Hutchinson Island, FloridaKemp's Ridley is the most endangered sea turtle and the only sea turtle that doesn't nest in this area. They are the only species of sea turtle known to lay their eggs during the day, laying around 110 eggs per nesting.
     

  • Hawksbill Turtles, a critically endangered sea turtle, weighs from 100 to 200 lbs and only has a 30 inch shell length. While the turtle lives a part of its life in the open ocean, it is most often encountered in shallow lagoons and coral reefs where it feeds on its chosen prey, sea sponges. Females drag their heavy bodies high onto the beach during the night, clear out an area and dig a nesting hole using their rear flippers laying a clutch of around 140 eggs.

All five Florida species are listed as either endangered or threatened. The federal Endangered Species Act lists the green, leatherback, hawksbill, and Kemp’s Ridley turtle as endangered. The loggerhead is listed as threatened.
 
The people of Hutchinson Island do their best to encourage the nesting sea turtles by keeping their lights off at night, including flash lights, and picking up the debris that floats ashore. Nesting sea turtles look for dark, quiet beaches to lay their eggs. Lights from buildings along the beach distract and confuse the females as well as the hatchlings. Thousands of sea turtles die each year from eating and becoming entangled in plastic bags and balloons floating in the water as sea turtles mistake them for one of their main food sources, jellyfish.

Manatee

The endangered Florida West Indian manatee, also called sea cow, are gentle and slow-moving. Most of their time is spent eating, resting, and in travel. Manatees have no natural enemies, and it is believed they can live 60 years or more. Unfortunately, many manatee mortalities are human-related occurring from collisions with watercraft. There are approximately 3,000 West Indian manatees left in the United States.

Manatees are found abundantly on the east coast in Florida’s Intracoastal Waterway and are occasionally sighted offshore in coastal waters.
 

The Indian River Lagoon, which stretches from Brevard County to northern Martin County, is known to be important to manatees for a variety of reasons, including for feeding and traveling. During the winter months, hundreds of manatees aggregate near industrial warm-water discharges on the Indian River.

The Manatee Observation and Education Center is a waterfront wildlife observation and nature education center located on Florida‘s east coast in downtown Fort Pierce. The Center lies just west of the Atlantic ocean and overlooks the nationally recognized Indian River Lagoon, a saltwater estuary and Moore‘s Creek, a freshwater creek and historical resting spot for the Florida manatee.


Right Whales

The North Atlantic Right Whale, is one of the most endangered large whales in the world. Only 300 right whales remain. These whales are commonly found off the East Coast of the United States and Canada. Right whales had been hunted to near extinction until hunting was finally banned in 1935. Although whaling is illegal, 30% of the mortalities are due to collision with large vessels or entanglement in fishing nets. Right Whale, Florida, Atlantic Coast

From December through March, pregnant females migrate from their northern feeding grounds to the warmer waters of Georgia and Florida to give birth to their young.

Right whales are often visible from the beach and many citizens along Florida’s eastern coast participate in a Right Whale sighting program to help relay whale locations to mariners. According to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission , when a right whale is sighted the information is reported to the Marine Resources Council sighting hotline (1-888-97-WHALE or 1-888-404-FWCC), where the information is then incorporated into the extensive communication network that informs mariners of right whale locations. Other species of whales are also found in Florida coastal waters, so it is important to be able to distinguish a right whale from other animals when reporting a sighting.

Right whales lack a dorsal fin; therefore, they have a large, flat back. They are dark gray or black and have "bumps" called callosities, on their head. The callosities appear white due to the presence of cyamids, or whale lice, that often congregate on the callosities. When right whales breathe they produce a V-shaped blow that is often as high as 15 feet and is visible from a great distance. Measuring up to 55 feet, an adult right whale can weigh 50 tons, and a newborn calf can measure 15 feet at birth and weigh 2,000 pounds.


Source: Fish and Wildlife Research Institute

Our Feathered Friends

Pelican - Hutchinson Island, FloridaThanks to its diversity of habitats, tropical climates, and geographical location over 500 species either call Florida their permanent home or use Florida's vast wilderness during their migration routes, making Florida a birder's paradise. Whether your a die-hard bird watcher or new to the birding community, the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission has created The Great Florida Birding Trail allowing everyone the opportunity to experience all the wildlife Florida has to offer. This 2000-mile (489 sites) self-guided highway trail is designed to conserve and enhance Florida's bird habitat by promoting bird watching activities and bird education. Of course Hutchinson Island is included on the Great Florida Birding Trail. Please feel free to visit The Great Florida Birding Trail for additional information and locations.

While enjoying your time on the beaches of Hutchinson you'll most likely encounter  pelicans,  the great blue heron, ospreys, egrets, royal terns, and an American White Ibis, just to name a few.
 

When you visit Hutchinson Island, Florida, be sure to check the Florida Wildlife Calendar. This calendar is an excellent resource on Florida's wildlife with a plethora of information as to where and when to look for various species including mating and nesting locations and migration dates and routes. Also, be sure to check out the Places to Visit on Hutchinson Island to take advantage of the local eco-tours, turtle walks and beautiful state parks.  

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