Five counties in Florida are hosts to the ninety percent of the loggerhead sea turtle nesting. The counties include Brevard, Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin, and Palm Beach. This represents about 160 miles of the 835 miles of beach in Florida where sea turtle is nesting is monitored.
Loggerheads are the most common sea turtle found in Florida. They get their name from the size of their head and have a reddish-brown shell with skin that ranges from yellow to brown in color. There are no external differences between the male and female until the turtle becomes an adult. Then the most obvious difference is that the males have thicker tails and shorter lower shells than females. Adults weigh between 200 and 350 pounds and are roughly three feet in length. A loggerhead has a lifespan of 47 to 67 years.
On average, females return to their nesting beach roughly every 2.7 years. They will lay 4.1 clutches, one about every 14 days. Each of their nest contains an average of 114 eggs.
Since a loggerhead sea turtle is omnivorous, they feed mostly on bottom-dwelling invertebrates. This includes snails, slugs, clams, oysters, cockles, mussels, scallops, crayfish, crabs, lobsters, prawns, and shrimp. They have more prey available to them than other sea turtles. Other prey includes sponges, corals, sea pens, sea anemones, cephalopods, barnacles, brachiopods, isopods, Portuguese men o’ war, insects, sea urchins, sand dollars, sea cucumbers, starfish, fish (eggs, juveniles, and adults), hatchling turtles this includes members of their own species, algae, and vascular plants. While they are migrating and through the open sea, they eat jellyfish, floating clusters, squid and flying fish.
Predators of the loggerhead sea turtle while early in their lives include ghost crabs, oligochaete worms, beetles, fly larvae, ants, flesh flies, snakes, gulls, corvids, opossums, bears, rats, armadillos, mustelids, skunks, canids, cats, pigs, and finally humans. While migrating from their nest to the sea, hatchlings are preyed upon by flies, crabs, toads, lizards, snakes, and various birds and mammals. Once in the ocean for juveniles’ predators include swimming crabs, parrotfish and moray eels. Due to their size, an adult loggerhead sea turtle’s main predators are sharks, seals, and killer whales. It is believed that 40% of nesting females around the world have wounds from shark attacks.
In Florida, the most destructive predator is the raccoon. There have been mortality rates of nearly 100% of all clutches laid in a season on some Florida beaches. Racoon populations have flourished in urban environments, and consequently, an increase in mortality rates.
Observed in both captivity and in the wild, loggerhead sea turtles are most active during the day. While in captivity, the time is spent between swimming and resting on the bottom. When they are resting, they spread their forelimbs to about mid-stroke swimming position and remain motionless with their eyes half-shut. In this position, they are easily alerted. At night though they sleep with their eyes tightly shut and are slow to react.
A loggerhead will spend up to 85% of its day submerged. Males are more active divers than females. The average duration of a dive is 15 to 30 minutes. They can stay submerged for up to four hours.
Humans have had a negative effect on the loggerhead sea turtle. Once intensively hunted for their meat and eggs; consumption has decreased due to worldwide legislation. Unfortunately, not all countries strictly enforce the regulations and their meat and eggs are still consumed. In the ocean, fishing gear is the biggest threat to loggerheads. Often, they become entangled in longlines and gillnets, and can also get stuck in traps, pots, trawls, and dredges.
Around the world, the loggerhead sea turtle is protected under various conservation acts, and in the United States, they are classified as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.