■ BY SUE ERWIN
A Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association patrol member found a wandering newly hatched loggerhead turtle getting ready to cross the road near the Range Light last Friday morning, so she scooped it up, placed it in a bucket and transported it to the shoreline. There wasn’t a hatch in the immediate area, so it was very likely that a bird had snatched the tiny turtle and then dropped it. A few days later, two more turtles were found in the parking area near the Range Light and were transported to the water. It’s possible the hatchlings were disoriented because of lights.
Note: It is illegal to remove a sea turtle, so if you see one, call the FWC Wildlife Alert hotline at (888) 404-FWCC (3922).
“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 26, 538 nests have been documented by patrol volunteers (17 were green nests and the rest loggerhead), and 640 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. 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).