turtle nests

Southwest Florida beaches have seen large numbers of sea turtle nests this year, and many have held up despite some high surf for recent storms in the Gulf.

ENGLEWOOD — The passing of Tropical Storm Sally could have been worse for sea turtle nesting.

“It just depended where you were,” said Zoe Bass who is a primary state permit holder with Wilma Katz who oversees the Coastal Wildlife Club’s volunteer sea turtle nesting patrols. “We’re still hopeful.”

While some beaches were awash with sea water for a day, Bass said, “a lot of (beach zones) were OK.”

This sea turtle nesting season, which began May 1 and ends Oct. 31, has been bountiful on Manasota Key.

As of Friday, the CWC volunteers reported 4,630 loggerhead nests, 143 green sea turtle nests and two Kemp’s ridley nests.

Knight and Don Pedro

“We lost 12 nests,” Brenda Bossman said. She is the primary permit holder for Knight and Don Pedro islands.

As of last week, the volunteers along the three-mile Gulf shoreline Knight and Don Pedro islands reported 383 loggerhead, 39 green nests and one Kemp’s ridley nest.

Sadly, the Kemp’s ridley nest didn’t produce any hatchlings.

“Ninety-seven eggs were filled with hardened yellow material with no discernible embryos,” Bossman said, describing the eggs as if they had been hard boiled.

The cause is unknown at this time, but Bossman sent four eggs to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for its analysis.

Protecting sea turtles

Now is not a time to lose sight that sea turtles and their hatchlings still need protection.

“It’s always good to include information on sea turtle strandings related to human interaction,” Mote Marine Laboratory spokeswoman Stephannie Kettle suggested.

Mote oversees sea turtle nesting for 35 miles along the Gulf from Venice north to Longboat Key. So far this season, Mote reported 3,633 loggerhead nests and 86 green sea turtle nests.

This season alone, Mote volunteers have also documented more than 225 disorientations of hatchlings.

When baby sea turtles emerge from their nests, they instinctively head for the horizon over the Gulf. However, FWC and other studies have determined the newborn turtles are easily distracted, confused and disorientated by artificial lights.

Also, digging holes on the beach and leaving them this time of year can become death traps for the hatchlings.

Mote offers the following tips to help sea turtles:

• Turn off any outdoor lights that can be visible on Gulf beaches from May through October. Both Sarasota and Charlotte counties enacted sea turtle protection ordinances requiring property owners to keep Gulf beaches dark.

• Close drapes or blinds after dark. Keep any interior lights from shining onto the beach.

• Do not be on the beach at night. Do not use flashlights, cell phone lights or other lights on the beach at night.

• Fill in holes and remove obstructions, like beach chairs or barbecues, from the Gulf beaches.

As endangered species, sea turtles, including their nests and hatchlings, are protected by state and federal laws. Call FWC’s Wildlife Alert at 888-404-FWCC (3922) if you find hatchlings in the road, a parking lot, or headed away from the water.

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