The sea turtles, they are a ’nestin’ – Season began May 1

May 3, 2019
By Marcy Shortuse

■ BY SUE ERWIN
Sea turtle nesting season officially began on May 1, but one anxious loggerhead started the season early and made her nest on Monday, April 29.
The first nest of the season was found and documented in Zone 8 (Range Light walkway south to Sea Grape Park) by Donna Larson and Ashley Coleman.
The Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association recently held a turtle party to welcome back patrol members and celebrate the new nesting season.
Donna Larson is the turtle patrol permit holder for the island. Due to the current beach renourishment project, special care is being taken to ensure any nests in the area are relocated.
“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 Melissa Csank, BGSTA board member. “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 they were 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, where it is entered in a national database. These data help track the health and activities of the species.
Only one in 1,000 baby loggerhead sea turtles survives to adulthood, but with your help, the number that might thrive could drastically improve.
From now through October 31, area beaches host the annual female sea turtle visitors. They emerge from the surf at night to lay their eggs in the dry sand, returning to sea when they’re finished.
On average, sea turtles lay about 100 eggs in a nest, and they usually average between two and eight nests a season. Natural incubation periods for loggerheads and green eggs range from 50 to 70 days in Florida. The time it takes for eggs to hatch is inversely related to temperature. As with all sea turtles, sex determination in hatchlings is also temperature-dependent.
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.
Loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) were listed under the Endangered Species Act as threated in 1978. Green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) are considered threatened, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
You can help the sea turtles get safely to the water.
Shield all point sources of light visible from the beach, and remove all beach furniture and equipment from the beach at night. Also be sure to cover up any holes that are dug on the beach so that hatchings don’t fall in and get trapped, and flatten sandcastles, which could hinder the females as they search for a good place to make their nest.
The Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association is a group of volunteers who walk the beach before the sun comes up every morning to monitor and document the activities of sea turtles on Boca Grande beaches.
If you would like to be a part of the Boca Grande Turtle Patrol, now is the time to get involved. Send an email to bocagrandeseaturtles@gmail.com to find out how you can become part of the team this season.
 
Photo provided
Boca Grande Sea Turtle
Association members documented the first nest of the year on Gasparilla Island. The nest is located south of town and was found in Zone 8 by Donna Larson (shown in photo) and Ashley Coleman.