Turtle season ramping up, guests observe rare daytime hatch

hatchlings hole web■ BY SUE ERWIN

Guests at the The Boca Grande Club had an exciting morning when they witnessed a rare daytime hatch on Friday, July 8.

Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association volunteer Melissa Csank said there have been numerous hatches across the island recently, including one very rare late morning hatch that was discovered by some guests at the Boca Grande Club.

“The family who discovered the hatch did the right thing and kept birds away from the nest and flagged down a turtle patroller on the beach. Because birds were circling the area, the hatchlings were collected by the patroller and released after dark, when there’s less chance of them being harmed by predators,” Csank said.

See facebook.com/seaturtleawareness for the live video of the baby hatchlings. Hatchlings face many predators, both on their way to the water and once they get into the ocean. On the beach, birds, crabs, ants, bobcats, raccoons and coyotes and even unleashed dogs are common threats to nests and newly hatched turtles. Once in the ocean, they face a host of marine predators until they reach adulthood.

“Predator activity increases as hatching season begins, and there have been a few nests that have been opened, or dug up by predators this season. Raccoon, coyote and bobcat tracks have been reported. Typically, less than 20 eggs (of nests with approximately 100 eggs) are taken. However, once they are opened, birds and ants can infiltrate the nest and cause even more destruction. Patrollers cover the nests with metal screens to keep the mammals from returning to the nest and use ant block, an FWC-approved treatment, to reduce the impact of ants on hatchlings and patrollers,” Csank said.

If you find hatchlings on the beach, turtle patrol volunteers recommend that you let them crawl to the ocean on their own, maintain a safe distance, and make sure lights are off so hatchlings don’t become disoriented. Do not remove them from the nest. If they are wandering away from the ocean or found during the day with birds circling, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 888-404-FWCC for assistance.

As of July 8, the association reported 524 Loggerhead (caretta caretta) turtle nests and 4 green sea (chelonia mydas) turtle nests on the island. A total of 808 false crawls have been reported on the island.

The BGSTA is actively looking for volunteers. Training and supplies are provided. Donations for the nonprofit organization are always appreciated. For more information, go to facebook.com/seaturtleawareness.