Turtles walk that extra mile
Bob and Debbie Haynes | SUBMITTED
This turtle walks back to the Gulf after digging a nest near
a beachfront house, away from the water.
As if they were taking a cue from Tropical Storm Colin, sea turtles are making a longer trek from the water to a nesting place to ensure nests aren’t deluged with water like earlier nests, according to Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Director Suzi Fox. Because of that, they are having a problem with furniture, tents and beach toys left on the beach overnight. Fox asks beachgoers to bring in their equipment for the night so mother turtles can get to a nesting place without the threat of getting tangled in something. Remember, these turtles are far more graceful in the water than on the land, especially since the only time they come on land is to lay eggs.
Fox also suggests you make an effort to keep lights turned off on the beach and in windows facing the beach so turtle hatchlings don’t get confused and come inland toward the manmade lights rather than into the Gulf toward the moonlight and stars.
These photos by Bob and Debbie Haynes of a bayside nester indicate future nests might be closer to the homes by the water.
Sunday, May 1 is the official start of sea turtle nesting season on Anna Maria Island, although the turtles sometimes begin nesting earlier.
For the next six months, imperiled female loggerhead and green sea turtles will be laying their eggs on the beaches at night, and their hatchlings will be making their way to the Gulf of Mexico.
During sea turtle season, May 1 – Oct. 31, please follow these tips:
• Turn off lights visible from the beach and close blinds from sundown to sunrise; lights confuse nesting sea turtles and may cause them to go back to sea and drop their eggs in the water, where they won’t hatch. Light can also attract hatchlings away from the water.
• Don’t use flashlights, light sticks, lanterns or camera or cell phone flashes on the beach at night.
• Remove all objects from the sand from sundown to sunrise, including chairs, boats, umbrellas, umbrella anchors and tents; they can deter sea turtles from nesting and disorient hatchlings.
• Fill in the holes you dig in the sand before leaving the beach; they can trap nesting and hatching sea turtles, which cannot live long out of the water.
• Don’t use sky lanterns or fireworks; they litter the beach and Gulf.
• Do not trim trees and plants that shield the beach from lights.
• Correctly dispose of fishing line, so it won’t entangle sea turtles and other animals.
• Stay clear of sea turtles and never touch them; it’s the law. If you see people disturbing turtles, or see a sick, injured, entangled or dead sea turtle, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).
• Obey posted signs for manatee slow-speed zones.
• Wear polarized sunglasses to see manatees in your path.
• If you observe a manatee mating herd - several manatees gathered as males vie to mate with a female - watch from at least 100 feet away. Coming any closer might disrupt the mating or endanger you; adult manatees typically weigh more than 1,000 pounds.
• Never feed or water manatees as they will become habituated to people, which could put them at risk of injury.
• Stow trash and line when underway. Marine debris that blows overboard can become ingested by or entangled around manatees.
• Report stranded or dead manatees to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Wildlife Alert hotline at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922).
During bird nesting season, March through August, please follow these tips:
• Never touch a shorebird chick, even if it’s wandering outside a staked nesting area.
• Teach kids not to chase birds – bird parents may abandon nests if they’re disturbed.
• Don’t feed birds – it encourages them to fly at people aggressively and is not good for their health.
• If birds are screeching and flying at you, you’re too close.
• Avoid posted bird nesting areas and use designated walkways to the beach.
• Keep pets away from bird nesting areas.
• Keep the beach clean; food scraps attract predators such as raccoons and crows to the beach, and litter can entangle birds and other wildlife.
• If you see people disturbing nesting birds, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).
• Stay at least 50 yards away from dolphins when viewing from a vessel or watercraft.
• Limit time spent observing dolphins to 30 minutes or less.
• Avoid making loud or sudden noises near dolphins.
• Move away slowly if a dolphin’s behavior indicates the animal is stressed or disturbed.
• Look Before You Book! Book wild dolphin viewing tours with businesses that responsibly view dolphins in the wild and help dolphin conservation. See Facebook “Don’t Feed Wild Dolphins” and “Dolphin SMART.”
• Put your vessel’s engine in neutral if in the close vicinity of dolphins.
• Call for help if you hook a dolphin on a fishing line or see a stranded or injured dolphin - Mote Marine's Stranding Investigations Program, 941-988-0212.
• Pursue, swim with, pet or touch wild dolphins, even if they approach you.
• Feed or attempt to feed wild dolphins.
• Encircle or entrap dolphins with vessels.
• Direct a vessel or accelerate toward dolphins with the intent of creating a pressure wake to bow or wake-ride.
• Separate mother/calf pairs.
• Drive watercraft through or over groups of dolphins.