First baby sea turtles of the season emerge

■ BY SUE ERWIN

The first sea turtle nest on the island has hatched.

Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association volunteers discovered the first hatch of the season on June 30 on zone 7 near at 10th street close to the range light walkway.

We’re just two months into nesting season, and there should be more turtles hatching any day.

The latest numbers are: 387 loggerhead (Caretta caretta) nests and four green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) nests. There have been 434 documented false crawls.

The false crawls are often a result of predators roaming the beach at night.

An aggressive bobcat discovered one nest and devoured nearly 100 eggs recently.

Nesting females can also be interfered with by holes in the sand, beach chairs and other items left on the beach overnight.

Organization volunteers report that as of the last day of June, the numbers are down 16 percent on loggerhead nests versus the same time last year but up slightly over 2015. For greens, the numbers are down even more significantly – a whopping 63 percent versus 2015 nests. Greens are down 33 percent from 2016. But the season is far from over, and there is still plenty of time to make up the numbers.

Early storms this season may have impacted the start of nesting. As a result of the storms, between 10 and 15 percent of the nests were destroyed, and some were lost to erosion on the north and south ends of the island.

Once a new nest is discovered, patrol members excavate it and count each egg. The information is then sent to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, where it is entered in a national database. These data help track the health and activities of the species.

The BGSTA would like to remind everyone that lights near the beach at night can disorient nesting adults and hatchlings and can interfere with a hatchling’s journey from the nest to the ocean.

Please keep pets on leashes and take any trash with you when you are leaving the beach.

Boaters should take it slow and keep an eye out for surfacing turtles and manatees.

Donations for turtle patrol are always appreciated. Items currently needed include: black permanent markers, large and small Ziploc bags, latex gloves, rubber mallets, bright yellow paint, five-gallon cans and 3/8” x 1.5” x 48” stakes. Monetary donations are always welcome. Please send them to BGSTA, PO Box 966 Boca Grande, FL 33921.

The BGSTA is actively looking for volunteers. Training and supplies are provided. If you’re available a few days a week to assist, go to facebook.com/seaturtleawareness to find out more.