Turtle nests hatching out almost nightly
SUN PHOTO/LAURIE KROSNEY Colleen Garness, left, and
Glenn and Claudia Wiseman count the number of eggshells left
behind. In this nest, all made it safely to the Gulf.
Turtle hatchlings are emerging from their nests in the sand on an almost nightly basis now, and Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch volunteers are urging property owners who have lights visible from the beach to get those lights turned off or get them shielded.
"This is really important now," AMITW Director Suzi Fox said. "We don’t need these hatchlings disoriented and dying."
As a nest gets close to hatching, the baby turtles begin emerging from their eggshells and move around in the nest cavity for a couple of days.
"When they get ready, they all emerge from the nest at the same time," AMITW volunteer Glenn Wiseman tells people who approach a nest that’s being excavated. "That’s called a ‘boil,’ and it looks like that as they just boil out the top of the nest."
Under ideal conditions, the hatchlings – about 100 to a nest – make a scramble to the sea. The loggerhead nests on our beaches usually hatch at night, and the babies have to avoid being picked off by birds as they scurry from the nest to the Gulf. Once in the water, they may become prey to fish or jellyfish. It’s estimated that only about one in 1,000 will make it to reproductive age – roughly 30 years after hatching.
That’s when conditions are ideal. Since most nesting in the world takes place on beaches where houses, condos and motels have now been built, the odds of making it to adulthood are significantly decreased.
The main reason is lighting. Sea turtles are attracted to sources of artificial light. There are laws in place that mandate that such visible lighting must be turned off or shielded during nesting season. That doesn’t always happen, and when it doesn’t, hatchlings are drawn to the artificial points of light. When that happens, it’s called a disorientation.
The hatchlings can become dehydrated and die. They also can be crushed by traffic or wander into swimming pools.
The code enforcement officers of all three Island cities make nighttime inspections on the beach to make sure everyone complies with the turtle protection laws, but they can’t be out every night. It’s the responsibility of property owners to make sure they’re in compliance.
There are inexpensive solutions for lighting problems that don’t compromise public safety. Property owners can ask their code enforcement officers how to safely light their property without harming sea turtles.
People who notice lights on after dark on the beaches can call the code enforcement officer in the city where the violation occurs to report it.