■ BY SUE ERWIN
Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association patrol members had an interesting morning earlier this week. After hearing about a report of a live adult turtle wandering on the beach, they came across a loggerhead female turtle that appeared to be sick. Volunteers contacted the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the 232-pound turtle was taken to a local rehabilitation center. Her prognosis as of press time was good.
As baby sea turtles make their way from the nest to the water, the goal is to keep the path as clear as possible.
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 20 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, August 16 there were 590 nests documented by patrol volunteers (21 were green nests and the rest loggerhead), and 632 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.
There were also 382 loggerhead turtle nests documented on Cayo Costa this year, and 17 nests are green turtles.
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 runs through October 31. It’s more important than ever to remember to cover up holes and knock down sand castles when visiting the beach during the next few months. 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).