Gasparilla Island sea turtle update: Those babies are movin’ toward the Gulf!

■ BY SUE ERWIN

We’re three months into nesting season, and many baby sea turtles have been making their way to the shoreline.

The latest numbers are: 495 loggerhead (Caretta caretta) nests, and six green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) nests. There have been 571 documented false crawls. The false crawls are often a result of predators roaming the beach at night.

A Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association volunteer recently found a nest that had been attacked by a coyote. When she walked up to the nest she saw a huge hole and some eggs on the beach. She became worried when she saw a hatchling that wasn’t moving. She picked it up and was relieved to find that it was still alive. She excavated the nest and put the others in a bucket and released them later that night.

The ongoing storms have created a loss of between 10 and 15 percent of the nests on the island. In some cases just the stakes may have washed away, and the nest is still viable but can no longer be tracked. In other instances, especially at the north and south ends of the island, the nests have been lost to erosion.

Once a new nest is discovered, patrol members excavate it and count each egg. The information is then sent to the 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.

Recently Charlotte County Parks and Recreation staff posted a violation notice when someone left beach chairs and other items on the beach overnight. The Sea Turtle Protection Program County Code Section 3-5-302(b) states that all beach furniture, chairs and umbrellas must be removed from the beach between sunset and sunrise when not in use. The items can interfere with nesting females that are trying to make their way to the beach and back to the water after laying a nest.

Boaters, please 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, 5-gallon cans and 3/8”x1.5”x48” stakes. Monetary donations are always welcome. Please send them to BGSTA, P.O. 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 details.