■ BY SUE ERWIN
Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association patrol members continue to document new nests and hatchlings, but one particular turtle has their attention. The turtle has been spotted in three different patrol zones, and it clearly has an injured flipper because of the uneven tracks it leaves in the sand. But that doesn’t stop her from choosing an area to nest on the island. Patrol members have named the turtle “Pegleg,” and they are curiously waiting to see where she will eventually lay her eggs.
“Turtle nesting is starting to drop off, and hatching continues to be in full swing,” said Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association Board member Mel Csank. “It’s very busy for the patrol members right now as we recently surpassed the middle of the season.”
There have been 17 documented green sea turtle nests on island so far this nesting season.
“This is exciting news,” Csank said. “Last season we had only two green turtle nests, so we are trending ahead significantly this year. In 2017 we had a total of 18 green nests, but in 2018 we only had two.”
The north beach renourishment project is complete, and the sand in that area was tilled to soften it, making it easier for turtles to nest. There have been 20 nest relocations due to the renourishment project, and all were very successful.
As of Friday, July 19, 510 nests have been documented by patrol volunteers (17 were green nests and the rest loggerhead), and 637 false crawls have been reported. 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 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 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 seagrasses (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.
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).