Turtle-nesting season could heat up early this year.
This spring has been warmer than usual, meaning that Gulf temperatures are above average as well, which means that local beaches could see nesting activity earlier than usual.
“Scientists think that warm water temperature is one of the cues for nesting to start,” said Hayley Rutger, public relations specialist at Mote Marine Laboratory.
Turtle-nesting season runs from May through October. Mote staff and members of Longboat Key Turtle Watch (which operates under Mote’s permit) have been busy distributing educational materials and refreshing their turtle training. On May 1, volunteers will begin hitting the beach at 6:30 a.m. every morning, with Turtle Watch volunteers patrolling the Manatee County side of the island and Mote volunteers and staff walking the Sarasota County portion of Longboat, along with the 35-mile stretch of Gulf beach that runs south to Venice.
Veteran turtle watchers are optimistic after a strong 2010 season, in which nesting numbers were up 25% from the prior year — with 271 nests recorded on Longboat Key, compared to 216 in 2009.
“We had a good season last year,” said Turtle Watch volunteer Cyndi Seamon. “Mother Nature was kind to us and didn’t give us any bad storms.”
But, although volunteers hope that 2011 will be another bright spot for turtle nesting, it’s important to remember that turtles should be kept in the dark. Bright lights can disorient hatchlings, causing them to strand. Longboat Key Code Enforcement Officer Heidi Micale said that turtle-friendly lighting should be low wattage with a long wavelength. Additionally, residents and visitors should close their drapes at night.
Contact Code Enforcement at 316-1966 or Mote at 388-4441 for information.
Contact Robin Hartill at [email protected]