Lights out for the turtles.
It’s the law of the land — at least for local beachfront communities such as Longboat Key — until Oct. 31, the official end of nesting season.
But, although turtle nests will continue to hatch for the next two months, in late August and early September, turtles typically get out of nesting mode.
This year is no different.
According to Hayley Rutger, public relations coordinator at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, which patrols the beach for turtle nests from the Sarasota County portion of Longboat Key south to Venice, nesting season appears to be over.
Rutger said Aug. 31, that more than a week had passed since the most recent nests were found.
“It’s pretty much in line with what we’ve seen in past years,” Rutger said.
Cyndi Seamon, a longtime volunteer with Longboat Key Turtle Watch, which patrols the Manatee County portion of the Key, agreed that nesting appeared to be over.
According to Seamon, after two weeks pass without new nests being laid, Mote typically notifies patrollers, who then begin spot-checking nests that have already been identified, rather than walking the entire beach in search of new nests.
In terms of the overall number of nests laid, the season has been no less than spectacular. A total 2,385 loggerhead nests between Longboat Key (encompassing the entire island) and Venice were laid, in addition to six green turtle nests.
“It’s the highest year for nesting numbers in the 31 years that Mote has been patrolling these beaches,” Rutger said.
But will that translate to more hatchlings?
Mote doesn’t release hatchling tallies until the end of season, so turtle trackers are still awaiting the final numbers that will tell them more about the impact of Tropical Storm Debby, which destroyed approximately 950 nests.
Seamon said that she recently excavated two nests, one of which had 96 unhatched eggs and the other of which had 72 that didn’t hatch — likely the result of being underwater during and after Debby.
“I was optimistic that it’s going to be a record year (for hatchlings), but, based on my experience, I think that it’s going to be down,” she said.
The good news is Tropical Storm Isaac stayed out of the Key’s path, leaving turtle nests with little damage, according to Seamon.
With nests still waiting to hatch on the beach, Seamon reminds residents to leave the lights off and clear the beach of furniture and other items, which helps to keep the path clear for hatchlings as they make their way toward the water.
And, even when Oct. 31 comes, that doesn’t mean the season is necessarily over for turtle-watchers.
Last year, Seamon was still checking on a nest or two in November.
Contact Robin Hartill at [email protected].
2012 TURTLE NESTING NUMBERS
Longboat Key (Manatee County)
Loggerhead nests: 265
Loggerhead false crawls: 224
Green turtle nests: 0
Green turtle false crawls: 0
Longboat Key (Sarasota County)
Loggerhead nests: 363
Loggerhead false crawls: 242
Green turtle nests: 0
Green turtle false crawls:0
Totals (Longboat Key to Venice):
Loggerhead nests: 2,385
Loggerhead false crawls: 2,286
Green turtle nests: 6
Green turtle false crawls: 3
Source: Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium