MIAMI (CBSMiami) — May is the official start of sea turtle nesting season and Miami-Dade County is proud to have a new “Turtle Truck” this season to help in its conservation efforts.

A $13,500 Challenge Grant from the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation helped pay for a brand new “Turtle Truck” for the Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department.

The new “Turtle Truck” will patrol Miami-Dade County beaches including Crandon Park Beach and Haulover Park Beach from sun-up to sun-down, seven days a week, now through the end of the sea turtle nesting season which is October 31st.

Miami-Dade’s Sea Turtle Conservation Program has successfully documented more than 6,886 sea turtle nests and released more than 585,000 live hatchlings to the sea, since it started the program in 1980.

New Miami-Dade County Turtle Truck.  (Source: Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces)

New Miami-Dade County Turtle Truck. (Source: Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces)

The new “Turtle Truck” replaces a rusted and failing pick-up truck that had been used for turtle patrol runs. The new 4×4 model is also better suited for beach terrain. The new truck is equipped with a custom topper to keep injured or sick sea turtles stable during transport.

Miami-Dade Parks’ “Turtle Rangers” release hatchlings to the sea every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 8:30 p.m.-10:00 p.m., at the Crandon Park Visitor and Nature Center, 6767 Crandon Blvd, Key Biscayne and at Haulover Park, 10800 Collins Ave., Miami.

The cost to participate is $10 per person and serves as a donation to Miami-Dade County’s Sea Turtle Fund.

Advance reservations are required. Call 305-361-6767 ext. 121.

“Generous donations like this help us to carry out our mission to protect and preserve the threatened and endangered sea turtles on our beaches,” said Miami-Dade County Parks Director Jack Kardys.

About Sea Turtle Nests

Once a nest has been completed, it is abandoned by the mother. The eggs and resulting hatchlings are left to fend for themselves and locate the water upon emerging or die. On average, sea turtles lay 110 eggs in a nest, and average between two and eight nests a season.

Baby Loggerhead Sea Turtle Hatchlings (Source:Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces)

Baby Loggerhead Sea Turtle Hatchlings (Source:Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces)

Because hatchlings are small and the egg chambers are deep, it is almost impossible for a single hatchling to escape from the chamber alone. As hatchlings break free from their shell inside the egg chamber, they stimulate other hatchlings to emerge from their eggs too. Once most hatchlings have emerged from their shells, they climb on top of the discarded eggshells to propel themselves to the top of the chamber. The hatchlings near the top of the egg chamber scratch down sand from above and around them. They emerge either en masse or in small groups. Emerging together increases the chance of survival as many hatchlings can overwhelm would-be predators. A single hatchling would be an easy target.

A sea turtle nest will take 55 to 60 days to unfold baby sea turtles, known as hatchlings. The first nest is historically in mid-May. June and July are very high nesting months and known as the Peak Nesting Time. Nesting will continue until mid-September. The last baby turtles will leave about the end of October.

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