Quick response saves hatchlings
SUN PHOTO/LAURIE KROSNEY
Argentino, who is visiting from
Ontario, Canada, and his two children, Clara 7, and Samson, 5,
watch as John Young digs out a nest.
The sky was dark, but the lights at a Gulffront resort located at mid-Island were burning bright as a turtle nest was just beginning to hatch.
"There was a big family reunion," said Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch Director Suzi Fox. "They said they were seeing little turtle heads popping out of the nest and then popping back in."
Fox said she asked them if all the lights of the resort and surrounding areas were dark.
"There were lights on everywhere," she said. "It was mostly that there were lights on in the units and the blinds weren’t drawn. The outside lighting wasn’t the problem."
Members of the reunion and other guests at the resort rushed around, turned out lights, pulled blinds and got things ready for the babies, which hatched without further incident and went directly into the Gulf.
"This is a time of year when we need to be especially careful about lights on the beach," Fox noted. "I can’t stress that enough."
Sea turtles are attracted to artificial light, and they will head toward it rather than towards the sea. Even windows covered with "turtle glass" are not safe. Lamps should be well back from all windows, the wattage from the bulbs should be low and the blinds should be drawn during the hours of darkness.
When sea turtle hatchlings see artificial lighting, they get led away from the water. Each year, there are a number of babies found in the street, flattened by traffic. Some are found dehydrated and dead on interior streets on the Island.
Each Island city has ordinances in place mandating that the beaches be dark during the overnight hours to protect sea turtles.
"I always advise people to put their lights out if they want to sit out side of have their windows open," said Anna Maria Code Enforcement Officer Gerry Rathvon. "It’s nicer, and you can see more, anyway."
Fox and her AMITW volunteers are asking everyone to pay attention and keep lights out at this time of year.
"I know that we have vacationers coming and going each week," she said. "The better resort owners and mangers make sure that each guest has information about sea turtles and they verbally tell them about safe lighting when they check in."
Fox added that if real estate agents with rentals or resort owners have run out of materials for guests, they can call her at 778-5638 to get more.