An even start to turtle season

An even start to turtle season
On Wednesday, May 1, the first day of turtle nesting season, the sun rose on the first nest at Manatee Public Beach. Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring volunteers Barbara Riskay and Kasey Gaylord-Opaleski record the location. - Submitted | Suzi Fox

At the start of turtle season, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring Director Suzi Fox reported three turtle nests as of Sunday – one on each city’s beach.

The first nest was discovered on May 1, the first day of the turtle season, at Manatee Beach in Holmes Beach with the next one on Thursday, May 2 on Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach and another nest later in the week at Bayfront Park in Anna Maria.

Fox reminds beachgoers to avoid nests, which are marked with yellow tape.

Fox has been patrolling the beaches with city code enforcement officials at night, looking for lights that might attract hatchlings away from the Gulf and onto dry land where they would likely die. When they hatch, sea turtles head for the Gulf, drawn by the light of the stars and moon. If Gulf-front buildings have lights that are visible to the turtles, they could go toward the lights and die from dehydration or be run over by cars.

It is illegal to touch a hatchling, so if you spot one in trouble, Fox said, call Turtle Watch at 941-778-5638.

Turtle Tips

During sea turtle season, May 1 – Oct. 31, 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, lanterns or camera flashes on the beach at night.
  • Remove all objects from the sand from sundown to sunrise; 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 wish lanterns or fireworks; they litter the beach and Gulf.
  • Do not trim trees and plants that shield the beach from lights.
  • Never touch a sea turtle; it’s the law. If you see people disturbing turtles, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).

Bird tips

During bird nesting season, March through August, 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).

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