Turtle nest numbers increase despite stormy weather

June 24, 2016
By Marcy Shortuse

■ BY SUE ERWIN
The Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association’s latest report for turtle nests recently showed that nests have increased for both green sea turtles and loggerheads. As of June 17, the association reported 297 Loggerhead (caretta caretta) turtle nests and 6 green sea (chelonia mydas) turtle nests on the island.
Volunteers scour the beaches every morning at dawn to look for flipper tracks from turtles that might have visited the beach overnight to make a nest. In a new nest it will take around 60 days for the hatchlings to emerge. Patrol members are on vigilant alert, because hatching can begin any day.
At this time of the year, adult females are still coming up to nest, and nests laid at the beginning of May are maturing and hatching. Patrol members start to watch for a hatch 45 days after a nest is laid. The eggs hatch underground, and it can take a few days until the hatchlings reach the surface.
A Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association spokesperson said the recent storms had less impact on Boca Grande than on beaches farther north. “We lost approximately 20 to 25 percent of nests overall, but in many cases the stakes washed away but the nests remain underground and may still be viable. Nests that are under standing water for a few days, nests that have large amounts of sand deposited over them by the storm, and eggs exposed by erosion are less likely to survive.”
A volunteer patrol member said that because hatchlings are easily disoriented and at risk of death by predators, it is even more important this time of year to keep lights off near the beach. Only about 1 in 1,000 turtle hatchlings survives to adulthood (Source: http://myfwc.com/research/wildlife/sea-turtles/florida/faq/). On May 22 a loggerhead turtle was stranded on zone 7 (between 3rd and 4th street). With the help of the Boca Grande Fire Department, the turtle (named “Tucker B”) was transported to Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota for rehabilitation. It had some minor, older wounds and appeared very lethargic. For the first week, Tucker B didn’t show much interest in eating, so he was given fluid therapy and force-fed a few fish. On May 31, Tucker B started eating on his own. You can check the status of the recovery progress at https://mote.org/hospital/patient/ tucker-b.
The turtle patrol members would like to remind beachgoers to please take your trash with you when you leave the beach, and pick up any trash that others may have left. It’s also important to fill in holes in the sand and knock down any sand castles that might interfere with a turtle trying to make her way to a nesting spot. Also, keep your lights off when you’re at the beach, and don’t leave things like beach chairs, toys or umbrellas overnight. Remember that pets can also be a threat. They may run after and harass turtles or dig up nests and harm hatchlings. Always keep dogs on leashes while at the beach. A tiny sea turtle hatchling is about the size of a ping-pong ball, and many things on the beach can become deadly obstacles for them. Once a new nest is discovered, patrol members excavate it and count each egg. The information is then sent to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, where it is entered into a national database. This helps track the health and activities of the species. The BGSTA is actively looking for volunteers. Training and supplies are provided.
If you’re available a few days a week to assist, go to facebook.com/seaturtleawareness to find out more details.