Sea turtle nest numbers growing, patrollers anxiously await first hatch

Sea turtle nest numbers growing, patrollers anxiously await first hatch

■ BY SUE ERWIN

Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association patrol volunteers didn’t experience the usual pleasant experience of patrolling their zones this week.

Several suffered from coughing and sneezing, while seeing many different species of dead fish due to low concentrations of red tide detected around the island.

As of press time, the association reported 94 Caretta caretta (Loggerhead) turtle nests on the island. There were 107 reported false crawls.

An aggressive bobcat has been chasing turtles back into the water when the females are trying to leave a nest, explaining why there are so many false crawls this season (when turtle comes up onto the beach but does not lay a nest).

Patrollers are also seeing lots of loose dogs out on the beach lately. Please help protect our nesting sea turtles by keeping dogs off the beach or on a leash.

The red tide has come on quickly and increases the likelihood of strandings of both live and dead sea turtles.

“If a turtle is rescued in time, it is possible for them to be rehabbed, but it takes quite a while for the toxins to leave their system — sometimes up to two months,” said Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association Board Member Melissa Csank. “Loggerhead turtles are most impacted by brevetoxins and take significantly longer to recover.”

Signs that a sea turtle has been impacted by red tide include swimming in circles, muscle twitching, jerky body movements or lethargy.

So far, the island has not experienced a sea turtle stranding related to the red tide, although there was a dead turtle found on Friday June 1 on Zone 1 which appeared to be from a shark attack.

Please remember to take your trash with you when visiting the beach. Patrol members have been picking up large amounts of litter from the beach daily.

Also remember to fill in any holes in the sand. The holes can hinder a nesting sea turtle’s ability to lay her eggs at a safe area on the beach. All beach furniture should be removed at night. Turtles may become trapped in furniture and get stuck in holes on the beach.

Bright lighting can misdirect and disturb nesting sea turtles and their hatchlings, so beachgoers should avoid using flashlights or cellphones at night. Turning out lights or closing curtains and shades in buildings along the beach after dark will ensure nesting turtles are not disturbed as they come ashore and hatchlings will not become disoriented when they emerge from their nests.

Wherever you are, other ways to help sea turtles include properly disposing of fishing line to avoid entanglements, and reporting those that are sick, injured, entangled or dead to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC.

Turtle patrollers help keep the beach clean, flat and turtle friendly among other important duties. They also get out to enjoy our beautiful beach at one of the most beautiful times of the day.

If you’re interested in being part of the turtle patrol program, send an email to bocagrandeseaturtles@gmail.com or search for the organization on Facebook.