Gulf of Mexico
Loggerhead hatchling, Flickr

Sea turtle hatching is in full swing as temperatures soar

Nesting numbers rebound as beach nourishment project settles in

Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association patrol members are keeping very busy and vigilant this turtle nesting season.

“We continue to excavate nests relocated due to the renourishment, and all have had good hatch rates, most near 100 percent, which is similar to nonrelocated nests,” said Board member Mel Csank. “Turtle nesting is starting to drop off, and hatching is in full swing. It’s very busy for the patrol members right now as we hit the middle of the season.”

There have been 15 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.”

The north beach renourishment project is complete, and the sand in that area was tilled to soften it, making it easier for turtles to nest. There have been 20 nest relocations so far.

As of Friday, July 12, 466 nests (15 green and the rest loggerhead) have been documented by patrol volunteers, and 593 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.

There were 20 relocated nests due to the 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 it’s more important than ever to remember to cover up holes and knock down sand castles when visiting the beach. Always dispose of any trash, and remember – no lights at night.

Bright lighting can misdirect and disturb nesting sea turtles and their hatchlings, so beachgoers should avoid using flashlights or cellphones at night. Turning out lights or closing curtains and shades in buildings along the beach after dark will ensure that nesting turtles are not disturbed as they come ashore, and hatchlings will not become disoriented when they emerge from their nests.

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 the 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).

See Boca Beacon article . . .