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FWC looking into mishandling of sea turtle hatchling

An Orlando woman posted a Snapchat video of her holding and following a hatchling on a Longboat Beach.

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  • | 2:42 p.m. August 22, 2016
  • Longboat Key
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The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission is currently looking into a situation in which an Orlando woman mishandled a sea turtle hatchling on a Longboat Key beach.

The woman posted a video to Snapchat, a social media app allowing users to send pictures and videos to their friends, showing her picking up a hatchling and following it while it made its way to the ocean. 

The investigation is being held out of the Ocala office of FWC. Sea turtles are a protected species under the Endangered Species Act meaning no one can touch or interfere with them, Melissa Bernhard, a Mote staff biologist working with the sea turtle conservation and research program, said. As far as she knows, the investigation is still happening. According to signs posted near turtle nests, the woman could be fined, Bernhard said.

The news comes about two weeks after the Longboat Key Turtle Watch held its first public nest excavation of the season. At the excavation, the organization released 31 hatchlings from Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium’s hospital into the water and reminded sea turtle admirers that mishandling hatchlings, including touching them, picking them up and flashing lights at them will disorientate them and cause them to stray away from the water.

“That’s their main sensory cue [sight] at that stage in life so when you overpower them with flashes, it can cause problems,” Bernhard said.  “They can go the wrong direction and waste a lot of energy crawling the wrong way.”

The turtle watch is currently in the middle of a record-breaking nesting season. Despite the record-breaking numbers, only 1 in 1,000 hatchlings will survive, making their first trip to the ocean vital.