Dead turtle found on beach, cause of death possibly man

May 15, 2015
By Boca Beacon

crawls-mayBY MARCY SHORTUSE – Sea turtle season has just begun and while nest numbers are still low, island patrollers have already found one turtle dead on local beaches.
According to Maureen McConnell, the head of the island’s sea turtle patrollers, she received a call of a “stranded” juvenile loggerhead turtle at the north end of the island near the Boca Grande Club on Friday.
Patrollers use the word “stranded” to indicate an injured, sick or dead turtle is on land, and appears to be unable to return to the water.
“I had walked by that spot at about 7 a.m. and there was no turtle there,” she said. “It must have washed up Friday afternoon or evening. A woman saw it there and reported it to the county, but when I went by Saturday morning it was still there.”
turtle ShellsMcConnell checked the turtle over well, but couldn’t find any marks, injuries or signs of illness. She called the FWC again on Sunday morning, and was told someone would be by to check it. On Monday morning when the turtle was still, Maureen called again.
“They told me they had sent someone out to check it and get measurements,” she said. “They told me to get rid of it, they didn’t need the body.”
Still confounded over the turtle’s cause of death, Maureen and another turtle patroller, Dr. Jeff Humbarger, got to work burying the loggerhead.
Not long after, two other men helped them dig the deep hole, Chuck Menzel and Kevin Hall of Sea Oats. Maureen was taking a break from digging when a man walked up with his dog.
“He said he saw something bobbing in the water out there the day it was found, and he swam out to see what it was,” Maureen explained. “It turned out to be a turtle, with its head, neck and left front flipper encased in a fishing net. The man cut the net away and left the turtle in the water. If it was the same turtle, it must have washed in after that.
“Human stupidity killed it.”
Two of the biggest enemies sea turtles can face, short of predators, are lights shining on the beach and beach furniture. When baby sea turtles hatch it is at night. They immediately seek out the light of the moon and head toward it, as it guides them to the water. When artificial light from a house is the brightest and closest thing they see, they head for that instead. They can end up on roadways, in swimming pools and backyards … and it inevitably ends in tragedy.
Beach furniture and holes that are dug by children playing in the sand become deadly obstacles. Adults and babies alike can become entangled very easily. They also can’t back up, they are a one-way-only creature. Babies fall in the holes and can’t get out, and will die before being found.
Coastal residents and visitors are encouraged to follow these turtle-friendly tips during nesting season, May 1 – Oct. 31.
Do:

  • If you encounter a nesting turtle or hatchlings, remain quiet and observe from a distance
  • Shield or turn off outdoor lights that are visible on the beach from May through October
  • Close drapes after dark and put beach furniture far back from the water
  • Fill in holes that may entrap hatchlings on their way to the water
  • Pick up all trash left on the beach, as turtles can become entangled in it as well

Do Not:

  • Approach nesting turtles or hatchlings, make noise, or shine lights at turtles
  • Use flashlights or fishing lamps on the beach
  • Encourage a turtle to move while nesting or pick up hatchlings that have emerged and are heading for the water
  • Use fireworks on the beach

Sea turtles are protected under federal law and any harassment or interference with a sea turtle, living or dead, is subject to penalty. If you witness anyone disturbing a turtle or find an injured or disoriented hatchling or adult, please notify agents with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922), the local sheriff’s department, and/or Mote Marine Laboratory’s Sea Turtle Program at 388-4331. If you find a dead or injured sea turtle contact Mote’s Stranding Investigations Program at 988-0212.
Sea turtles aren’t the only nesting animals around this time of year. On the north end of the island there two snowy plover mamas nesting, each with three eggs. A large group of least terns is there as well, and a colony of black skimmers has also been spotted. Nancy is thrilled as these rare birds are returning to the island more and more in the last few years.
If you see a roped-off area on the beach, whether for turtles or birds, please do not walk inside the area as nests can be extremely difficult to spot.
baby turtle craw