■ BY SUE ERWIN
The Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association would like to remind everyone that bright lighting could misdirect and disturb nesting sea turtles and their hatchlings, so beachgoers should avoid using flashlights or cellphones at night.
Turning off lights or closing curtains and shades in buildings along the beach after dark will ensure nesting turtles are not disturbed as they come ashore, and hatchlings will not become disoriented when they emerge from their nests.
All beach furniture should be removed at night.
Turtles may become trapped in furniture and get stuck in holes on the beach.
Remember to take your trash with you when visiting the beach, and fill in any holes in the sand. The holes can hinder a nesting sea turtle’s ability to lay her eggs at a safe area on the beach.
Last week, a patrol member reported that she found some hatchlings wandering toward the dunes away from the water. They were redirected and eventually made it to the shoreline.
The organization reported that as of June 28, there are 381 documented nests on Gasparilla Island this season. There have been 482 false crawls, a significantly higher number than last year, and most likely a result of the beach renourishment project, which is now completed.
“Overall on the island, turtle nesting and false crawls are both up significantly over last year,” said BGSTA Board member Mel Csank.
“While it seems like a drastic change in the number of false crawls, much of it is at the north end, where coyote activity is impacting crawl and nesting success.”
The coming weeks will show the success of the 22 relocated nests.
“Overall, it’s been a great season for the turtles, with nesting of both loggerheads and green turtles up from last year,” Csank said. “We are keeping our fingers crossed that these nests hatch normally.”
The green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) faces many threats both on land and in the water and is protected under the Endangered Species Act. 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.
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 it’s more important than ever to remember to cover up holes and knock down sand castles when visiting the beach. Always dispose of any trash, and remember – no lights at night.
Only one in 1,000 baby loggerhead sea turtles survives to adulthood, but with your help, the number that could thrive could drastically improve.
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 threatened in 1978. Green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) are considered threatened, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
If you see a stranded or dead manatee anywhere in state waters or a stranded or dead sea turtle, dolphin or whale, call the FWC Wildlife Alert hotline at (888) 404-FWCC (3922).