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Siesta Key Wednesday, May 8, 2019 6 months ago

Rare leatherback turtle nest spotted on Siesta Key

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Two leatherback turtle nests have been documented by Mote in Venice and Siesta Key. The last time a nest like this was in the area was 2001.
by: Katie Johns Community Editor

Only a week into turtle season and already there is a pleasant surprise.

Two rare leatherback turtle nests have been documented in the area – one on Siesta Key Beach and the other in Venice. The only other time a leatherback turtle nest was documented on the 35 miles of Mote Marine Laboratory-monitored beaches was in 2001, and it didn’t hatch.

“It’s rare. They primarily nest in the U.S. on the east coast of Florida,” Melissa Bernhard, a senior biologist with Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program said.

Leatherback turtles are the largest of all sea turtle species and tend to be more of an open water type animal. They are usually around 7-feet long and their tracks can span 6.5 feet to 7 feet wide.

Bernhard said Mote’s team isn’t sure what brought the leatherbacks ashore here. She said the turtle could have been washed in with recent storms or just felt like testing out a new area, but she wouldn’t be surprised if the two nests were from the same turtle.

Bernhard also said it’s unlikely that red tide caused this turtle to change her navigation route.

Because leatherback turtles are so rare in the area, Mote’s team doesn’t know much about them. Bernhard said they will take as much data from these nests as they can without causing any harm.

“The only one in (our) history was in 2001, so now to have two in one season is pretty exciting,” Bernhard said.

The two nests are staked off and caged to protect them from predators. Bernhard said she expects any eggs that will hatch to do so in 50-80 days.

I’m Katie. I’m the Longboat Observer community editor, which means I cover all people, places and things pertaining to Longboat Key. I graduated from the University of Missouri in 2016 with degrees in journalism and Spanish. Reach me at 941-366-3468 ext. 364.
 

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