Rookery Bay Research Reserve’s Wildlife in the Summer

– Some Lay Low and Some Stay Very Busy!

Do you ever wonder how the wildlife in Naples stays cool and deals with the hot, humid summer months?

Loggerhead Sea Turtles and endangered beach nesting birds (like Black Skimmers, Least Terns and Wilson’s Plovers) don’t have much of a problem with the extremely warm Gulf waters or hot beaches. This is their nesting time of year, and they are busy!

Sea Turtles come ashore at night to dig nests and lay eggs in the shell strewn sand, and birds line beaches sitting on fragile eggs to offer protection from the heat. When they hatch, these beach nesting birds keep their tiny chicks close until they are ready to take flight.

For the other animals of Rookery Bay, summer is a much less active time. Mammals like deer and raccoons are rarely seen during the day, enjoying the shade of upland brush habitat and resting, only to be seen at dusk and dawn.

Indigo and rat Snakes spend their days beneath the ground in tortoise burrows where the temperature is dramatically cooler. But, just like their human counterparts, some animals will try to beat the heat by staying in the water.

Alligators and crocodiles tend to spend more time in ponds and lakes, and less along the mud banks. Even the Rookery Bay biologists and interns who monitor Sea Turtles and beach nesting birds are most active in the early hours.

Each day, the Sea Turtle monitoring team begin their work by boat at close to 6 a.m. looking for Sea Turtles nests on the beaches of the Reserve – from south of Marco Island all the way to the Ten Thousand Islands, bordering Everglades National Park. Once a nest is discovered, it is GPS coded so the team can return in approximately 60 days to see if a nest has hatched and take data on the number of hatchlings.

This data is shared county and statewide to monitor the health and resilience of Sea Turtle populations. The public is invited to follow along by checking out Rookery Bay’s realtime Sea Turtle monitoring dashboard at It shows the number of nests and hatchling baby turtles. The reserves all share the same mission of long term protection and preservation of these coastal treasures through scientific research, monitoring, education and training.

Cool Off at the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center

When the temperature rises, there is no better place to chill out than the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center. The 16,500 square foot two-story nature center is fully air-conditioned and has something for everyone!

There are hands-on experiences at the marine life touch tanks and interesting exhibits about the birds, animals and fish that call Rookery Bay’s 110,000 acres of coastal land home.

  • Hold a sea star in your hand or touch a lightning whelk
  • Stroll through the Art Gallery
  • Shop the Nature Store
  • Enjoy beautiful views upstairs of surrounding waters
  • Check out interactive exhibits about indigenous people and rugged pioneers
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