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Biologists at Gulf Islands National Seashore discovered their first sea turtle nest of the season on Tuesday morning, identifying it as that of a loggerhead sea turtle.

Beginning on Friday, May 19, park visitors may stop by the Fort Pickens and Perdido Key entrance stations to pick up a free “turtle magnet.” Officials said that displaying the turtle magnets on vehicles throughout the area will help remind everyone of the importance of helping young sea turtles survive and that it’s the time of year to turn off outdoor lights at night.

Each year, beginning in mid-May and ending in late summer, the seashore provides nesting habitat for several species of sea turtle, including loggerheads, Kemp’s ridley, green, and leatherback sea turtles. Adult and hatchling sea turtles are often distracted or disoriented by man-made artificial light sources which draw them away from the Gulf of Mexico and inland toward the artificial lights. These disoriented turtles often die from dehydration, are preyed upon by coyotes and ghost crabs, or sometimes crawl onto roads or parking lots and run over by cars.

By turning off excess outdoor lights at night and installing turtle friendly lights, residents and visitors can help to protect nesting and hatching sea turtles, officials said.

“If we all work together, we can ensure that sea turtles will continue to have safe dark places to nest on our beaches,” said Superintendent Daniel Brown.

Park staff will monitor beaches for nesting and hatching activity as the season progresses. Park visitors who see a sea turtle at night are urged to keep their distance and keep all lights off, including flashlights and flash photography.

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