■ BY SUE ERWIN
As sea turtle nesting season continues to wind down, there are no changes to the current count of nests on Gasparilla Island.
The most recent turtle nest update provided by the Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association remains the same as the last three weeks, indicating that the end of nesting season is near. The season officially ends on October 31. If you are interested in volunteering next season, find out more details on the BGSTA Facebook page.
It is illegal to remove a sea turtle from its natural environment, so if you see one, call the FWC Wildlife Alert hotline at (888) 404-FWCC (3922).
Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association Board member Mel Csank said although nesting has come to a halt, and hatching is also slowing down.
As baby sea turtles make their way from the nests to the water, the goal is to keep the path as clear as possible.
There have been 22 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.”
As of Friday, September 20, there were 624 nests documented by patrol volunteers (22were green nests and the rest loggerhead), and 592false 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.
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. Always dispose of any trash, and remember – no lights at night.
The hatchlings that survive land predators like bobcats and coyotes, feed on small organisms living in seagrasses (called sargassum).
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).