Turtles hit all-time high

A loggerhead sea turtle hatchling makes a running crawl for the Gulf of Mexico. - Amy L. Waterbury | Submitted

ANNA MARIA ISLAND – Loggerhead sea turtles have hit an all-time high on Anna Maria Island, laying 504 nests since May 1, when the season began, according to Suzi Fox, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring director.

The previous record was set last year, with 488 nests. The 20-year average is 222 nests.

“It’s good news,” she said.

Fox said there is no way to know how many of the hatchlings from those nests will be affected by red tide, which arrived on Friday in the Gulf of Mexico off Anna Maria Island.

Red tide already has killed fish, manatees, a whale shark and other wildlife, including turtles and birds, over the past several months in Southwest Florida.

Turtle disorientations also are an ongoing concern, Fox said, causing hatchlings and nesting mothers to become confused, sometimes leading to hatchling deaths and mothers returning to the Gulf without nesting.

Eleven nests have been disoriented so far this season, which ends on Oct. 31. The 20-year average is 18 disorientations per season.

Two nests were disoriented on the Island recently, one from lights left on at a construction site and one at a resort whose owners are now working with Turtle Watch to get their lights in compliance with the local turtle ordinance, she said.

If you see a nest hatching with the turtles crawling away from the Gulf and toward lights, call Turtle Watch at 941-778-5638.