■ BY SUE ERWIN
The Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association announced the final numbers for the 2019 nesting season.
Greens had a record-breaking year on the island, with 22 nests hatching over the past few months.
There were 624 nests on Gasparilla Island, with 602 being loggerhead (Caretta caretta) sea turtles.
The Association reported 592 false crawls. A false crawl occurs when a turtle makes its way onto the beach but doesn’t produce a nest. Patrol members said they expected a high number of false crawls in June due to the beach renourishment project.
The green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) faces many threats both on land and in the water and is protected under the Endangered Species Act, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Their distinctive crawl and nest that looks like a bomb crater are far more rare on the island than the loggerhead (Caretta caretta). Typically we have fewer than 10 green turtle nests each season.
Loggerhead turtles were listed under the Endangered Species Act as threatened in 1978.
Association volunteers would like to remind everyone to be cognizant of your surroundings when visiting the beach. Sea turtle nesting season officially began on May 1, and runs through October 31. It’s more important than ever to remember to cover up holes and knock down sand castles when visiting the beach. Always dispose of any trash, and remember – no lights at night.
The hatchlings that survive land predators like bobcats and coyotes feed on small organisms living in seagrasses (called sargassum).
Patrol members collect data daily, and the information is then sent to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. These data help track the health and activities of the species.
If you see a stranded or dead turtle, dolphin or manatee anywhere in state waters, call the FWC Wildlife Alert hotline at (888) 404-FWCC (3922).