Stranded turtle rescued, more hatchlings emerging

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BY SUE ERWIN – Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association volunteers found a stranded turtle on Thursday, September 1 at Gasparilla Marina.

The turtle was picked up by BGSTA members Sharon and Karl Knapp and was transported to Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota by Donna Larson … just as Tropical Storm Hermine was being upgraded to a hurricane.

“The turtle is being treated at Mote Marine and currently has severe fibropapillomatosis (FP), a type of benign tumor caused by the herpes virus that is specific to sea turtles and common in green turtles as well as elevated white blood count. We are hopeful for a good outcome,” said turtle patrol volunteer Melissa Csank.

Adult turtles appear to have ceased nesting for the season, and activity on the beach now is strictly hatching.

Csank said the storms will make it more difficult, but not impossible, for hatchlings to emerge from the nest.

“One other issue is that nests that stayed under water for a number of days potentially may be waterlogged. So, post-storm hatching success remains to be seen, but luckily, approximately half of the nests on the island have already hatched,” Csank said.

On average, sea turtles lay 110 eggs in a nest and average between two and eight nests each season.

The eggs will hatch in 45 to 60 days after a nest is covered.

Only one in 1,000 hatchlings will survive to adulthood. They can live to be more than 100 years old. 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.

If you find hatchlings on the beach, it is recommended 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.

In the 2015 season, BGSTA supported, tracked and protected 509 loggerhead and 25 green turtle nests, which works out to approximately 53,400 threatened or endangered hatchlings that benefited from the efforts in Boca Grande. And the group is on track for a significantly higher number this season: Approximately 75,100 hatchlings will be aided to the sea by BGSTA.

As of September 9, the association reported 797 Loggerhead (caretta caretta) turtle nests and four green sea (chelonia mydas) turtle nests on the island. A total of 1,087 false crawls have been reported on the island.

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