Hatching at peak, problems galore
A baby turtle trying to get to the sea fell into
a deep hole dug in the beach sand. AMITW Volunteer
Carol Soustek found this hatchling trying to hide
under a bit of sand overhanging the hole.
It’s that time of year again. Baby turtles are emerging from the nests that mature female loggerhead sea turtles deposited in the Island sands earlier this year.
And it’s the time of year again when some of those hatchlings encounter man-made problems when they climb out of their nests to scramble into the waters of the Gulf.
Every week, there is a disorientation or two. That’s the word used for a nest emergence where the hatchlings head away from the Gulf and towards an artificial light source.
Last week, one of the disorientations was at Shell Cove, a condominium in Bradenton Beach. People from the condominium and from a resort next door were on the beach and rushed around picking up hatchlings to return them to the sea.
“I think they got most of the babies,” said Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch Director Suzi Fox.
Steve Gilbert, the Bradenton Beach building official, agreed that it appears most of the hatchlings were saved.
“It was very confusing out there,” he said. “People were running around everywhere. There was one light on at Shell Cove, there was another light on a terrace in Sunset Terrace, the building to the north, and just to the south at Sand Pebble, people running past the motion sensors made the lights go on there.”
Fox said her organization has photographed hatchling tracks and light sources, as have Bradenton Beach code enforcement officers, but there hasn’t been time for everyone to get together to talk over what happened.
“It was chaos out there,” Gilbert said. “If I were a baby turtle, I would have been confused, too.”
It would be difficult, if not impossible, according to Gilbert, to lodge a code complaint in this disorientation incident.
“There were so many lights that could have been a problem, and the tracks from the hatchlings were difficult to see because of all the footprints from people running around on the beach,” Gilbert said.
Both Gilbert and Fox urged people who witness a disorientation to place the hatchlings in a bucket. Then immediately call AMITW at 778-5638, or you can call the police in the city where the disorientation is occurring.
Street light problems
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has put the city of Holmes Beach on official notice that street lights at 65th and 67th streets are “visible from the sea turtle nesting beach and as such pose a risk to threatened and endangered sea turtles that nest on adjacent beaches.”
Dr. Robbin Trindell, who overseas the turtle preservation efforts in the state, sent the letter by registered mail to Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger.
“Sea turtles find the ocean after nesting or hatching by heading towards the brightest, open horizon and away from dark silhouettes,” Trindell wrote in her letter to Bohnenberger. “Bright lights along the beach can interfere with the ability of adult and hatchling turtles to find the ocean, and result in their death.”
Trindell went on to urge the city to take action as quickly as possible “to ensure that unauthorized take of threatened loggerhead sea turtles does not occur on city beaches due to streetlights.”
If the streetlights are necessary for human safety, Trindell suggests that the city use shielding to make sure the lights aren’t visible from the beach.
Bohnenberger said he hadn’t seen the letter yet, and could not comment.