Turtle season soars into record books

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

ANNA MARIA ISLAND – The 2018 sea turtle season on Anna Maria Island is a record-breaking success, due to the turtles and the volunteers of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring, director Suzi Fox said at the annual banquet on Saturday.

Out of a record 534 turtle nests laid, 447 nests hatched, producing a record 35,788 hatchlings, about 10,000 more than in 2017, she said. About half the turtles that climbed up on the beach this season nested.

Not all news was good, however.

Fifty nests were disoriented by lights, which confuse both nesting and hatching turtles, keeping mothers from laying nests and attracting hatchlings away from the water.

Four nests were washed into the Gulf of Mexico by Hurricane Michael.

And for the first time in the organization’s 36-year history, a dog dug into a nest and pulled out the hatchlings, a week before they were due to hatch.

Dogs are not allowed on Anna Maria Island beaches.

Coyotes also have been spotted on the beach for the first time, she said, adding that there is no evidence of them digging into nests.

With 20 new volunteers this year, Turtle Watch will not be accepting any new people in 2019, Fox said.

She cited volunteers for their special contributions: Kathy Noonan, for the Adopt-a-Nest program and office work; Scott Riggs, Linda and Pat Caldwell for nest stakes and office work; Maggie Carter, Barbara Riskey, Denise Gardner, Cindy Richmond, Bob Haynes and Lynn Brennen for giving Turtle Talks; Dave Ault “for just about everything;” Karen Norton for bird surveys and Amy Waterbury for photos.

Suzi Fox
Although all recorded nests have hatched, it’s still lights out until Oct. 31 for those that may have been overlooked.

Fox recognized coordinators with free car washes and said thanks and farewell to Mary Lechleidner and Marilyn George, who are retiring from Turtle Watch.

Turtle season officially ends on Oct. 31, but while all marked nests have been accounted for on the Island, some nests may have been laid that were not discovered and marked. Please continue to comply with turtle lighting ordinances and keep beach-facing windows dark.

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