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Camera flashes dangerous to sea turtles

Wildlife officials: Flash can affect nesting

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Wildlife officials are urging people not to take pictures of sea turtles at night with a flash camera.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is calling it a "new 21st century hazard."

GALLERY: Florida sea turtles

Taking photos of sea turtles using a flash can interfere with nesting.

“It’s great that people are enjoying Florida’s beaches and are enthusiastic about our sea turtles,” said Dr. Robbin Trindell, who leads the FWC’s sea turtle management program. “However, most visitors to the beach don’t realize that any light on the beach at night poses a threat to these threatened and endangered animals."

LINK: Purchase "Helping Sea Turtles Survive" license tag

A nesting female may become frightened or disoriented by lights or a flash photo and return to the ocean without laying eggs.

Lights on the beach at night also could interfere with adult or hatchling sea turtles trying to find the ocean after nesting or hatching.

March 1 is the official start of the sea turtle nesting season.

From now through the end of October, three different species of sea turtle will land on Florida’s Atlantic and Gulf coast beaches to lay their eggs.

In 2015, a record number of green turtle nests were documented in Florida: 27,975 on the 26 beaches that the FWC has monitored since 1989.

DATA: 2015 Florida Sea Turtle Nesting Totals

According to the Sea Turtle Conservancy, nesting turtles once had no trouble finding a quiet, dark beach on which to nest, but now they must compete with tourists, businesses and coastal residents for use of sandy beaches.

If a female fails to nest after multiple false crawls, she will resort to less-than-optimal nesting spots or deposit her eggs in the ocean. In either case, the survival outlook for hatchlings is slim.

If you see a sick, injured, entangled or dead sea turtle, call FWC's Wildlife Alert Hotline at 1-888-404-3922 (FWCC).