BY SUE ERWIN – Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association patrol members were happy to report three new green sea turtle nests documented on island beaches this week.
“This is exciting news,” said Board member Mel Csank. “Last season we had only two Green turtle nests, so we are trending ahead significantly this year.”
The north beach renourishment project is complete, and 17 nest relocations were performed in that area. The sand in that area will be tilled by this weekend to soften the compressed sand, making it easier for turtles to nest in that area. There have been 20 total relocations so far.
“They have been moved to a safe location, and we’ll continue to monitor nests in the renourishment area and relocate them as appropriate,” said Csank.
Patrol members had an interesting morning earlier this week.
They moved one nest and then had to put a cage over a nest that is close to hatching. It is the first nest documented this year. With the pipe running the length of the beach, the hatchlings would be trapped landward of the water. The nest will be checked twice a day, in the early morning and late at night. If it hatches, the tiny turtles will be taken out of the cage and allowed to go to the beach, where there is no pipe blocking the water.
The pipeline is a result of the current beach renourishment project, which is expected to be completed over the next week.
So far, 247 nests (4 green and the rest loggerhead) have been documented by patrol volunteers, and 364 false crawls have been reported. A false crawl occurs when a turtle makes its way onto the beach but doesn’t produce a nest.
Green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) face many threats, both on land and in the water, and they are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Their distinctive crawl and nest that looks like a bomb crater is far more rare on the island than the Loggerhead (Caretta caretta). Typically we have fewer than 10 green turtle nests each season.
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.
“We are being assisted by Don Pedro Island’s permit holder, Brenda Bossman, who has significant experience in relocations, which are quite a delicate and fragile process, where a nest is taken apart egg by egg and placed in a bucket,” said Csank. “Then a new egg chamber is built farther down the beach, where it will not be impacted by the relocation.”
The eggs are then placed in the new chamber in exactly the sequence in which they were found in the original nest. During this process, the eggs cannot be rotated or turned from the original position they were found in. 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).