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KEY WEST (CBSMiami/Florida Keys News Bureau) — It’s sea turtle nesting and hatching season in the Florida Keys, and the Key West Sea Turtle Club and other local environmental organizations are patrolling beaches to help ensure turtle nests and hatchlings are protected.

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Earlier this week, a club member captured rare footage of newly hatched loggerhead sea turtles emerging from their nest on Key West’s Smathers Beach and making a beeline for the Atlantic Ocean.

The footage is rare both because turtle hatches are not usually witnessed, and because they typically take place in full darkness.

After hatching at night, sea turtles instinctively proceed toward the brightest light — normally a glow on the ocean horizon that leads them into the water, experts said. Loggerhead hatchlings usually head offshore to the Atlantic’s Gulf Stream.

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(Courtesy: Florida Keys News Bureau)

Key West Sea Turtle Club’s members put protective marking around the nest and safeguarded a pathway to the water for the tiny turtles to travel. Early Tuesday evening, the turtle eggs hatched and the loggerhead hatchlings followed the path into the Atlantic.

Sea turtle nesting season traditionally begins in mid-April and continues through mid-October.

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