Turtle nests near beach parking lot
SUBMITTED | Sun
On Tuesday, June 5, Turtle Watch volunteers discovered
a loggerhead sea turtle nest that was laid at the
foot of the stairs at the BeachHouse restaurant deck
in Bradenton Beach the previous night.
BRADENTON BEACH – A month after the Bradenton Beach Commission voted to allow parking on the beach at the BeachHouse restaurant – and the day after the city was sued for doing so – a loggerhead sea turtle brought the issue home by laying her nest there.
There was bound to be a problem sooner or later, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring Director Suzi Fox said, but she had predicted it would be a mother turtle disoriented by headlights as cars parked on the beach.
Instead, the mother turtle laid a nest at the foot of the stairs leading to the BeachHouse deck.
Shortly after the nest was discovered by Turtle Watch volunteers the morning of Tuesday, June 5, an extreme high tide, known as a king tide, began flooding the nest.
Sea turtle eggs can withstand some washovers by high tides, but if a nest is flooded, the eggs can wash out to sea and the hatchlings can drown, she said.
By 9:30 a.m., it was clear the nest was in jeopardy, but state authorization is required to relocate a nest after 9 a.m. As water seeped into the nest, Fox called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) for a consultation.
Robbin Trindell of the FWC wanted to know one thing – would the turtle likely have laid the nest farther away from the water if the stairs had not been there?
Yes, the Turtle Watch volunteers agreed.
The verdict? Move the nest away from the water.
Fox dug up the eggs and dug another nest farther east, away from the water, even though it meant the nest would be closer to the area where people park on the beach, she said, adding that state guidelines wouldn’t allow moving it north or south of its original location.
If the nest had been anywhere else on the Island, Fox said, she would have moved it twice as far away from the water, but she was afraid car traffic would destroy it if she moved it closer to the beach parking area.
“I made the decision not to go any further because if there is illegal driving on this beach, that nest would be compromised if I moved it to the position I thought it should be,” she said. “I wished I could have put it another 50 feet back, but I wasn’t comfortable knowing that every single night they park on the beach.”
Fox maintains that despite the May 4 Bradenton Beach Commission decision to allow parking on the beach at the BeachHouse restaurant, driving and parking on the beach is illegal.
“It is still nesting habitat. If it wasn’t, I would not have been told by the state to put a nest there,” she said.
The beach parking issue was raised in a lawsuit filed in Manatee Circuit Court on Monday, June 4 against Bradenton Beach by three Bradenton Beach residents (see related story).
The city plans to build a dune to separate the parking area from the beach sometime after turtle season is over on Oct. 31, Fox said, but no permits have been applied for, according to FWC.
Until then, nesting and hatching turtles are at risk of being run over or having headlights disorient them or even having a nest run over, Fox said.
“The city must stop the parking on this beach until this dune is in,” she said.
Heavy rains on June 4 and 5 washed over other nests, but none were lost, Fox said, adding that washovers lower hatching success slightly.
However, the rain caused another problem, washing away turtle tracks before new nests could be discovered by Turtle Watch volunteers. Around Aug. 1, when a nest laid in early June would be due, volunteers will be watching for unmarked nests hatching, she said.