Sea turtle hatchlings rescued by patroller

Sea turtle hatchlings rescued by patroller

■ BY SUE ERWIN

Two baby green sea turtle hatchlings were very lucky last week to have an alert patrol member find them after they fell into a crab hole late at night. Thankfully, patroller Jim Walter knew to look around for any stragglers and found them and directed them toward the sea.

Patrollers excavated three nests on Wednesday morning and found one hatchling in each one.

They were named Liberty, Bell and Freedom.

Note: It is illegal to remove a sea turtle, so if you see one, call the FWC Wildlife Alert hotline at (888) 404-FWCC (3922).

“Nesting has dropped off, and hatching continues to be in full swing,” said Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association Board member Mel Csank. “It’s very busy for the patrol members right now as we recently are getting near the end of the season.”

As baby sea turtles make their way from the nest 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 6, there were 617 nests documented by patrol volunteers (22 were green nests and the rest loggerhead), and 601 false 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 during the next few months. Always dispose of any trash, and remember – no lights at night.

The hatchlings are about the size of a cookie, 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.

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).