Turtle patrol rescues sick pelican, saves baby turtle stuck in roots

Turtle patrol rescues sick pelican, saves baby turtle stuck in roots

■ BY SUE ERWIN

Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association patroller Denise Drago Juergens went above and beyond her regular duties caring for the turtles one morning last week. She discovered a pelican in extreme distress during her morning walk near the The Boca Grande Club.

Denise immediately sprung into action, engaging the Boca Grande Fire Department, FWC permit holder Donna Archibald Larson and wildlife rescuer Blanche at The Loose Caboose. The pelican was taken to The Wildlife Center of Venice Inc. for treatment.

On another day, patrollers found a baby turtle stuck in some roots on the beach. They removed the roots from around its neck and flippers, and found it was ready to be released. The turtle was named “Freedom.”

Larissa the loggerhead update

Larissa was found wandering on the beach two weeks ago by BGSTA patrol members. She is still re-cooperating at Mote Marine in Sarasota and is doing well. She now has a nice clean carapace, no more barnacles and her flipper is healing well.

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).

Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association Board member Mel Csank said nesting has slowed, and hatching continues to be in full swing.

“It’s still very busy for the patrol members right now as we recently are getting near the end of the season,” Csank said.

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, Sept. 13, there were 624 nests documented by patrol volunteers (22 were green nests and the rest loggerhead), and 592 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 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.

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).