You can turn on your lights again, even if they’ll cast a shadow onto the beach, because the six-month turtle-nesting season is over.
Mote Marine Laboratory, which monitors beaches from Longboat Key to Venice, documented 57,790 hatchlings this season, including 20,938 on Longboat Key.
It may sound like a lot, but it’s actually lower than would be expected, given this year’s high nesting numbers, according to Mote Public Relations Coordinator Hayley Rutger.
This year was a record season for turtle nests, with 2,462 documented nests in Mote’s patrol area and 639 on Longboat Key, compared to 1,284 area nests and 275 Key nests in 2011.
But Tropical Storm Debby struck in late June, just as the first turtle nests were beginning to hatch, destroying approximately 950 nests.
Volunteers with Longboat Key Turtle Watch, which patrols the Manatee County side of Longboat Key under Mote’s permit, excavated several nests scheduled to hatch around the time that Debby struck. They discovered that most, if not all, turtles had drowned.
As a result, the group held public nest excavations later in the season than usual to avoid the unpleasant sight of drowned turtles.
Season continued through Oct. 31, although turtles typically stop nesting in late August or early September.
Nests continued to hatch into mid-October.
2012 Hatchling counts
LBK (Manatee County ): 7,712
LBK (Sarasota County): 13,226
Mote patrolled total: 57,790
Source: Mote Marine Laboratory