■ BY SUE ERWIN
As of press time, the Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association reported 207 Caretta caretta (loggerhead) turtle nests on the island. There were 203 reported false crawls (when a turtle comes up onto the beach but does not lay a nest).
Red tide is still being detected around the island, particularly at the north end, but patrollers are reporting less levels of respiratory irritation this week.
Red tide increases the likelihood of strandings of both live and dead sea turtles.
If a turtle is rescued in time, it is possible for it to be rehabbed, but it takes quite a while for the toxins to leave their system – sometimes up to two months.
Signs that a sea turtle has been impacted by red tide include swimming in circles, muscle twitching, jerky body movements and/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.
If you come across a sea turtle that is stranded or dead, or if you see someone disturbing a nest or turtle, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at 888-404-FWCC.
Remember to take your trash with you when visiting the beach and 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.
Florida’s beachfront residents and visitors taking these actions will help conserve the loggerhead, leatherback and green sea turtles that nest on the state’s coastlines.
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.
Go to MyFWC.com/SeaTurtle for more information on Florida’s sea turtles. If you’re interested in being part of the turtle patrol program, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or search for the organization on Facebook.