The time of the turtles is here, volunteers needed

■ BY SUE ERWIN

Attention all sea turtle fans. The Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association is seeking volunteers to help patrol the beaches for the upcoming nesting season.

It appears that nesting season has started early this year. The first nest was spotted on Monday, April 24 around 48th Street on zone 4. The loggerhead nest was discovered by Candy and Bill Sasser and documented by Donna Larson, the new permit holder and patrol leader for the organization.

The season officially begins on May 1 and runs through October 31. A gathering was held recently to welcome new volunteers. Instructions were discussed and zone books were distributed to patrollers.

Only one in 1,000 baby loggerhead sea turtles survives to adulthood, but with your help, the number that could thrive could drastically improve. From May 15 through October 31, area beaches host the annual female sea turtle visitors. They emerge from the surf at night to lay their eggs in the dry sand, returning to sea when they’re finished.

The Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association is a group of volunteers who walk the beach before the sun comes up every morning to monitor and document the activities of sea turtles on Boca Grande beaches.

On average, sea turtles lay about 100 eggs in a nest, and they usually average between two and eight nests a season. Natural incubation periods for loggerheads and green eggs range from 50 to 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 curette) 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.

Please help the sea turtles get safely to the water. Shield all point sources of light visible from the beach, and remove all beach furniture and equipment from the beach at night. Also be sure to cover up any holes that are dug on the beach so hatchings don’t fall in and get trapped.

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.