Most turtle nests survived Tropical Storm Emily

August 14, 2017
By Marcy Shortuse

■ BY SUE ERWIN
The majority of sea turtle nests survived Tropical Storm Emily. Thankfully, reports from the turtle patrol front lines are very positive and the storm has not been as destructive as storms breaking at this time of the year in the past.
Many nests have been washed over (when the waves break over the nests at high tide) but this is not usually a problem for most nests.
The biggest problems for turtle nests occur when nests are under standing water for long periods of time or if the eggs are washed away due to erosion of sand. Luckily, this issue was minimal in this storm.
Patrollers said zone three had five wash overs and some stakes were lost, and needed to be re-staked, but nests appeared viable.
Zone seven lost one nest, which was very close to the tide line and also had some wash overs, but the nestlings continued to hatch.
The hardest hit zone was number one, which lost four nests during the storm.
Boca Grande patroller Candy Sasser said “A lot of our beach is more shallow than last year. Several nests have been washed over because they are at the base of the high scarp.”
Zone eight had several wash overs but didn’t lose any nests, it just washed over nests that continued to hatch.
Other zones were minimally impacted.
On average, sea turtles lay about 100 eggs in a nest, and usually average between two and eight nests a season.
Natural incubation periods for loggerheads and green eggs range from 50-70 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 sea grasses 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.
Once a new nest is discovered, patrol members excavate it and count each egg. The information is then sent to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission where it is entered in a national database. This data helps track the health and activities of the species.
If you are interested in patrolling, send a message to the Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association via its Facebook page. All training and materials are provided.
Donations for turtle patrol are always appreciated. Items currently needed include: Black permanent markers, large and small Ziploc bags, latex gloves, rubber mallets, bright yellow paint, 5-gallon cans and 3/8”x1.5”x48” stakes. Monetary donations are always welcome. Please send them to BGSTA, PO Box 966 Boca Grande, FL 33921.
The Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association is actively looking for volunteers. Training and supplies are provided. If you’re available for a few hours in the morning a few days a week to assist, go to facebook.com/seaturtleawareness to find out more details.