MANATEE — Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologists are asking for help surveying spawning horseshoe crabs.
As spring approaches, horseshoe crabs congregate to spawn along sandy beaches and shallow coastal waters throughout the state. Although horseshoe crabs mate year-round, spring is the peak season to see them aggregate on beaches and in bays.
Sighting horseshoe crabs is best around high tide within three days of a new or full moon, March 20 and April 4, respectively.
Report sightings to MyFWC.com/Contact, email findings to horseshoe@MyFWC.com or call 866-252-9326.
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Observers should note the number of horseshoe crabs and whether they are mating. Mating crabs “pair up,” with the smaller male on top of the larger female. Note roughly how many horseshoe crabs are mating adults and how many are juveniles (4 inches wide or smaller). Also: Date, time and location of sighting as well as habitat type.
It takes female horseshoe crabs about 10 years to reach sexual maturity before they can lay about 80,000 eggs per year. Eggs feed migrating shorebirds, and larger crabs are often consumed by loggerhead sea turtles.