■ BY SUE ERWIN
Despite the effects of red tide, sea turtle nests numbers are continuing to grow, hatchlings are making their way to the water and excavations are being done by patrol members on a consistent basis.
As of July 27, the Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association reported 636 Caretta caretta (Loggerhead) turtle nests on the island. There were 578 reported false crawls(when a turtle comes up onto the beach but does not lay a nest).One Chelonia mydas (green) turtle nest has been reported so far this year.
An unusually high number of adult and juvenile turtles have been washing up on the beaches, including another critically endangered Kemps Ridley on August 1.
“I do want to underscore that nesting and hatching activity is close to normal, despite the red tide conditions,” said BGSTA board member Melissa Csank. “We have more nests on the beach than we did last year at this time, and we have not seen an unusual number of hatchling deaths in nests or on the beach (pending final numbers). That being said, we do not know what happens to the hatchlings when they are far enough out to see not to be washed back to our beach. One theory I’ve heard is that the most serious toxicity from Karenia brevis occurs when the toxin is ingested. Because nesting females don’t eat for a period of time while nesting, and hatchlings are in a swim frenzy and don’t eat until they’ve safely made it out to the sea, they are less impacted by the toxin.”
If you’re on the beach and see what you think is a red tide intoxicated baby sea turtle, the best thing to do in that situation is to call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) hotline (888) 404-FWCC and report it. FWC will then contact the BGSTA to pick it up. This allows FWC to track and document every element of the stranding and they will work with the rehabilitation agencies to get the hatchling to the place that is most appropriate. It is not advised that you touch a hatchling, but if you think it is in distress, gently place it in a bucket with some damp sand, cover it with a towel and wait for a volunteer to pick it up.
Patrol members would like to remind residents to be mindful that if you see spray paint on a deceased sea turtle’s shell or head, the turtle has already been documented, so there is no need to call the organization again.
The BGSTA is looking for some kindhearted folks who live locally, have a boat and might be interested in transported stranded turtles to the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife) CROW facility on Sanibel Island.
There are no turtles in need of transporting at the moment, this is a request for the future for when turtles are rescued.
Currently, transporting a turtle to CROW takes about four hours (round trip) by car, so the trip would be much shorter by boat and less stressful sick or injured turtles.
This is a fairly rare event so it would not be a regular commitment.
Optimally, the organization would like to find a few boaters that volunteers could call in an emergency.
If you are a turtle lover with a boat and you’re interested in helping, send an email to email@example.com more information.
Turtle patrol volunteers would like to remind everyone to keep pets on leashes,
If you come across a sea turtle that is stranded or dead, or if you see someone disturbing a nest or turtle, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at 888-404-FWCC.
Go to MyFWC.com/SeaTurtle for more information on Florida’s sea turtles, and click on “Research,” then “Nesting” for more data on sea turtle nesting.
The BGSTA is actively looking for volunteers. Training and supplies are provided. If you’re available a few mornings a week to assist, go to facebook.com/seaturtleawarenessor send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org find out more details.