BY MARCY SHORTUSE – Never let it be said that Gasparilla Island turtles are slackers. By the beginning of sea turtle nesting season for 2020, which started today, May 1, there were already four nests on our beaches.
Unfortunately, there is also a lot of beach furniture and deep holes in the sand dug by beach-goers.
The Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association patrollers who have been checking specific areas of the beach where one false crawl and other potential turtle activity has been reported have found numerous problems already with how humans are leaving the beach.
Association members ask everyone to please remember the beach needs to be flat (no holes or sand castles), clean (no furniture, towels, toys, etc.) and dark (no lights that can be seen from the beach). Turtles can not back up or effectively maneuver around these items and interactions can lead to death.
The island’s first nest was found on April 23, and the other three nesting mamas followed shortly after.
The hatchlings are about the size of a ping-pong ball, and if they survive land predators like bobcats and coyotes, they feed on small organisms living in sea grasses called sargassum, where they spend their early developmental years.
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.
Things to remember:
Remove all equipment, beach furniture and other potential obstructions from the beach at night, when nesting females and hatchlings need to move unimpeded across the sand.
Manage artificial light at night by turning off lights when not in use, closing curtains and shades, and shielding lights needed for human safety so no light is visible from the beach.
If you find a dead, sick, or injured sea turtle, call FWC’s 24-hour Wildlife Alert Number at (888) 404-3922. Be prepared to answer the following questions: exact location of the animal? Is the turtle alive or dead? Approximate size of the turtle? Is the turtle marked with spray paint? (This may indicate that the turtle has been previously documented). Location of the closest access point to the turtle? If the turtle is alive, please be prepared to stay with it until help arrives.
Loggerhead turtles, the island’s most prominent species, were listed under the Endangered Species Act as threatened in 1978. Tampering with them, or any other species of sea turtle, will get you into some pretty big trouble.