■ BY SUE ERWIN
With just a few scattered nests left on the island, sea turtle nests are diminishing daily as the last sets of hatchlings continue to make their way to the water.
The official end to the season is October 31.
While the storms that hit the island this year strongly impacted most of the sea turtle nests on the island, the majority hatched before the storm.
Turtle patrol volunteer Melissa Csank said that, of the nests that had not hatched, many were observed in standing water and others experienced accretion – extra sand piled on top of the nest. Both reduced the chances of successful hatching. Some other nests had their stakes washed away by the storms, and the nests couldn’t be found. Some of these may still have successfully hatched, however. Red tide also impacted turtle season for the first time in many years. Fortunately, this too occurred at the end of the season when very few nests were left. Due to the effects of the red tide, patrollers walked a reduced schedule or spot-checked nests, but they continued to monitor nests despite the smell and respiratory distress, Csank said.
“Fortunately, despite all of this we had our strongest year ever, and the 2016 season saw a 58 percent increase in loggerhead nests and a 150 percent increase in loggerhead false crawls over the 2015 season. Oddly, we had fewer endangered green turtle nests this year. We had 12 confirmed nests last year, versus only two confirmed nests this year. All the green turtle nests occurred at the north end of the island on Zone 1,” Csank said.
Tucker B, a stranded turtle found on May 22, 2016, has made a full recovery at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota and was released back into the Gulf on September 21 from Lido Beach by Mote Marine Laboratory. Hermine, another stranded turtle found at The Gasparilla Inn Marina during Tropical Storm Hermine, unfortunately had to be euthanized. Despite efforts to revive and rehabilitate her, she had internal fibropapillomatosis tumors and could not be saved.
As of October 16, the Boca Grande Beach Turtle Association reported no change in activity since the last update on October 7. As of that time, there were 803 loggerhead (Caretta caretta) turtle nests and one green sea (Chelonia mydas) turtle nests on the island. A total of 1,086 false crawls have been reported on the island.
For more information, go to facebook.com/seaturtleawareness for more details.