- 41 i c
0 - '
Department of Planning and Natural Resources
Division of Fish and Wildlife
U.S.V.I. Animal Fact Sheet #18
SEA TURTLE IDENTIFICATION
PICTURE GUIDE TO SPECIES OCCURRING IN THE AREA
2 prfr of
4 laLeral scut
more than 1 pair of
prefrontl avuls S latu l sou
3 inliamarginal scutes
All sea turtles are reptiles. They spend almost
their entire lives swimming in the ocean. The only
time they are not in the ocean is when the eggs are
developing in the sand on the beach (they leave
land after hatching) and when the females return
to shore to lay eggs. The quickest way to tell if a
turtle is a sea turtle is to look at its legs. All sea
turtles have flippers instead of feet. If the turtle
has feet with claws or nails then it is not a sea
All sea turtles breathe air and need to come to
land to lay eggs. They are cold blooded like all
other reptiles, which is why they are found in
warm ocean waters. All the hard-shelled turtles
have a body temperature that is the same as the
water in which they live. The Leatherback is the
only soft-shelled sea turtle and is the only turtle
that is found in colder waters. Because its body is
so big and because it has special counter current
heat exchangers in its flippers, it can maintain a
body temperature higher than the surrounding
Table of basic biological parameters for sea
turtles found nesting in the territory.
Hawksbill Green Leatherback Loggerhead
How big 34 inches 42 inches 72 inches 48 inches
do they 214 lbs 485 lbs 1,864 lbs 608 lbs
Size at 1.7 inches 2 inches 2.4 inches 1.8 inches
hatching 0.5 oz 0.8 oz. 1.5 oz. 0.6 oz.
Carapace Hard Hard Soft Hard
Four species of sea turtles exist in the U.S.V.I.
Hawksbill, Green, Loggerhead and Leatherback.
Hawksbills are the smallest, they have a hawk like
beak, and their shell is elongated and slightly tear
dropped in shape. The Green turtle's shell is
much rounder and the shape of the nose is much
blunter. Loggerheads are very uncommon in the
Territory, but several have recently been seen.
They are reddish in color and have a much thicker
neck and head than the Hawksbill and Green
turtles. They also have five lateral scutes, instead
of the four seen in the others. Leatherbacks are
the largest of the turtles and instead of having
plate like scutes on their shell they have seven
ridges that extend the length of the body. The
shell is not hard like the other turtles it is made up
of a thick fatty fibrous issue.
All species of sea turtles are protected under
both Federal and Territorial laws.
What you can do to help
1. If you see any turtle nesting or hatching
events, please write down the date, time and
location you saw the turtles then call the
Division of Fish and Wildlife at 340-772-1955
(on St. Croix) or 340-775-6762 (on St.
Thomas/St. John) to report the event.
2. Please make an extra effort to keep plastic out
of the marine environment.
3. Turtles, especially hatchlings, will head
toward the brightest light source on the beach.
This used to be star and moon light shining on
the ocean, but today it may be street or
building lights. If you have security or safety
lights near the beach use low intensity sodium
vapor lights and build shades around the light
so the beach is not directly illuminated. If
possible turn these lights off when hatchlings
4. Do not take flash pictures or shine lights
directly toward the turtles it will disorient
them. Like us, turtle eyes will maintain the
ghost image of the flash, only the hatchlings
see this as a bright area and will crawl toward
5. If you see a nesting turtle do not crowd around
it and do not harass it. You may observe
nesting from a distance. You need to stay
behind the front flippers of the turtle so you
don't disturb her. No flash photography.
6. If you see someone harassing a sea turtle or
poaching a nest, call the local police (911) or
the local Division of Environmental
Enforcement STT 340-774-3320,
7. For more information on this and other
animals in the Virgin Islands please visit our
web site at: www.vifishandwildlife.com
PRODUCED IN 2003 by W. Coles
THIS PUBLICATION WAS PRODUCED WITH FUNDS
FROM THE WILDLIFE CONSERVATION AND
RESTORATION PROGRAM (WCRP).
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON
OUR NATIVE ANIMALS CONTACT
DIVISION OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
6291 ESTATE NAZARETH, 101,
ST. THOMAS, VI 00802
PHONE 340-775-6762 FAX 340-775-3972
45 MARS HILL, ST. CROIX, VI 00840
PHONE 340-772-1955 FAX 340-772-3227