Turtle season is here

Turtle hatchling
- Cindy Lane | Sun

BRADENTON BEACH – It’s the first week of sea turtle nesting season, and while turtles jumped the gun on Longboat Key, none have nested so far on Anna Maria Island, according to Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring Director Suzi Fox.

Turtle Watch volunteers have reported three false crawls, turtles that crawl onto the beach to nest but return to the Gulf without doing so, sometimes due to obstructions on the beach or lights.

Fox is relieved that a snowy plover finally laid a nest this spring on the Island; it contains a sole egg, she said, and is roped off to protect the threatened bird species.

Anna Maria Island cities are enforcing local ordinances protecting the two threatened turtle species that nest locally, loggerheads and green turtles.

From May 1 to Oct. 31, residents and visitors to the Island must be careful that light is not visible from their windows and doors facing the Gulf of Mexico to the west or the Intracoastal Waterway to the east.

That’s because light can make both nesting and hatching turtles lose their way to the water, leading, in some cases, to their deaths from dehydration or predators. Turtles most often nest on Gulf beaches, but occasionally nest on the bayside, according to Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring statistics.

Code officials are conducting lighting inspections beginning this week, and Bradenton Beach Code Enforcement Officer Gail Garneau advises property owners and rental agents to be proactive in monitoring their properties for compliance during nesting season.

Visit the beach at night to see whether your lighting is visible, she suggests. Turn off or shield all lights that are visible from the beach from sunset to sunrise, or change to turtle-friendly bulbs to avoid leaving people in the dark.

Also remember to remove beach furniture and other items from the beach, or pull them back behind the front dune line, from sunset to sunrise to keep nesting sea turtles from becoming entangled, and fill in any holes dug in the sand before sunset to avoid entrapping turtles and injuring people.

Island cities must enforce turtle ordinances to continue to qualify to have the beaches renourished, according to Garneau. Turtles also are protected by state and federal laws.

A record 534 turtle nests were laid on the Island in 2018.

Literature on being turtle friendly is available online and at City Hall.

Related coverage

Turtle Watch volunteers ready for season

Turtle season soars into record books