Update on Larissa the loggerhead

Update on Larissa the loggerhead

■ BY SUE ERWIN

Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association patrol members reported that Larissa, the female loggerhead that was found wondering on the beach recently and transported to Mote Marine for treatment, is doing better. She is now eating on her own, but still is having a little trouble breathing in deep water. Her blood count was low at intake. She has a pit tag that was placed on her in 2005 in Broward County. She has also nested in 2009 on the east coast of Florida, so Larissa is a well-traveled turtle.

Hurricane Dorian had patrol members on edge all week with concerns about the nests.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much that BGSTA can currently do to protect nests in advance of a storm.

“In theory, we could relocate nests that are close to the surfline, but it is not the FWC’s policy for us to do it at this time,” said BGSTA Board member Mel Csank. “BGSTA monitors the nests before, during and after the storm and reports if they are covered by water and for how many days, or if a nest is washed away. It is very common for the stakes and tape to wash away, but the nest survives the storm and the hatchlings emerge with no issues. However, a nest can be destroyed by erosion of the sand, or the storm may deposit massive amounts of sand on the nest, making it impossible for the hatchlings to emerge.”

As baby sea turtles make their way from the nest to the water, the goal is to keep the path as clear as possible.

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).

There have been 20 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, August 23, there were 608 nests documented by patrol volunteers (22 were green nests and the rest loggerhead), and 606 false crawls have been reported. A false crawl occurs when a turtle makes its way onto the beach but doesn’t produce a nest.

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.

There were 382 loggerhead turtle nests documented on Cayo Costa this year, and 17 nests are green turtles.

Loggerhead turtles were listed under the Endangered Species Act as threatened in 1978.

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).