It's time again for one of the more spectacular natural events in the Keys -- turtle nesting season.
The City of Key West wants to remind residents and visitors to keep the lights out near the beaches so that turtles can lay their eggs in peace and the hatchlings can find their way safely to the water.
Hatchlings naturally run toward light, so we're asking that anyone living near the beach turn off the outdoor lighting and close your shades or curtains and if at all possible. If the lights cannot be completely doused, try shielding them so that they don't shine toward the beach. Baby turtles are drawn to light after they hatch from their sandy nests. Porch lights can be fatal to these hatchlings.
Key West's beaches are closed to the public each night at 11 p.m., and this time of year it's vital that people heed the law. April 15th through October 31st is turtle nesting season -- that time of year when these magnificent creatures crawl up out of the sea to deposit their eggs in the sand.
The organization Save-A-Turtle has, in past years, seen evidence that females have crawled up on the beach and returned to the water without laying any eggs. Turtle watchers suspect these "false crawls" may be the result of human interference.
Although it's tempting to try and witness this rare and wonderful aspect of our ocean environment, it's not worth the consequences. Nesting beaches have diminished as development has increased over the past several decades. It's crucial that we do all we can to ensure safe nesting beaches in Key West.
In the photo: This large female got turned around several years ago. Officer stayed with her until she went back to the beach to lay her eggs.