Turtle Watch: Hatchling season starts early this year

 
 

As of July 3, with 136 nests laid on Longboat Key, we’re beginning to catch up a bit on last year’s larger numbers (148 nests for the same time last year). The sea-turtle hatchling season has officially begun a little sooner than expected due to the heat and relatively dry weather.

Large numbers of nests will be hatching about mid-July, and the concern is for those hatchlings in the oil-spill areas. Accordingly, upon the recommendation of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, about 700 nests from Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and the Florida Panhandle will be moved to the East Coast. That equates to about 70,000 eggs (approximately 100 eggs per nest) to be relocated! These authorities are working with organizations like Mote to anticipate different scenarios and responses if Southwest Florida becomes classified as an active oil area. So far, so good.

Meanwhile, I had a recent interesting phone call from an old friend, Gail Hannah. The Hannahs live on the beach and have been host to many nesting sea turtles over the years. As we all know, the female comes back to the beach where she was born to lay her eggs. The most recent nest made on their beach seemed to bear this out in spades. The tracks showed the turtle coming up on the beach and then making a sharp turn to the right before reaching just the right place to make her nest. She knew exactly where she had been before — what it took to get there again! Is nature wonderful or what?

And, finally, a few words about some of the turtles being treated at Mote’s Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Hospital. A green turtle named Mate was brought to Mote in late March with a fractured skull after having been struck by a boat. Happily, the wound healed well, and with no vision damage and with antibiotic treatments, Mate was approved for release June 30.

Hayley, another green turtle, came to Mote back in February with multiple papilloma tumors on the soft tissues and eyes. In April, Hayley had to have surgery to remove multiple tumors as well as the right eye, which could not be saved. But all’s well that ends well, and she is eating and swimming normally. Hospital staff members hope that she will be well enough to be released in the near future.

Thanks to Norma Pennington and all the other animal-care volunteers at the Mote hospital. I’m sure we’ll have more happy endings to report to you in future columns. Currently there are 13 turtles in the hospital — a full house.


Virginia Sanders is the spokesperson for the Longboat Key Turtle Conservation Program, serves on the Citizens Advisory Board of the National Estuary Program and is a Mote Marine volunteer.

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