Mating horseshoe crabs. Photo by Connie Mier.
Spring is peak mating season for horseshoe crabs, and biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) encourage sighting reports with the new FWC Reporter application.
Horseshoe crabs mate year-round, and it is most common to see groups along the shore in March and April. To identify mating pairs, look for a smaller male on top of a larger female. Beachgoers will likely have the best luck spotting horseshoe crabs around high tide, within three days of a full or new moon. The next full moon is Friday, March 2, and the new moon is Saturday, March 17.
These sighting reports provide important information about population distribution to the FWC. Although horseshoe crabs have existed for about 450 million years, their numbers have declined due to overfishing and loss of habitat.
If you see a horseshoe crab on its back, gently pick it up (holding both sides of the shell) and release it back into the water. Simple actions like this help conserve this species and the many other species that depend on it.
The FWC asks the public to report sightings through one of several options. Go to MyFWC.com/Contact and go to “Horseshoe Crab Nesting Activity” for the “Florida Horseshoe Crab Spawning Beach Survey” link. The FWC Reporter app is free to download on Apple or Android smartphones or tablets from the App Store and Google Play. You can also report findings via email at horseshoe@MyFWC.com or by phone at 866-252-9326.