HOLMES BEACH – Sea turtle hatchlings whose dash to freedom on Independence Day was spoiled by lights got a police escort to the Gulf of Mexico.
The loggerhead turtles – the first nest to hatch this season on Anna Maria Island – were disoriented by lights on the first floor at the Anna Maria Beach Resort, 6306 Gulf Drive, and further hampered by fireworks and fireworks debris, tents on the beach, holes dug in the sand and beach litter, according to the Holmes Beach Police Department report.
A group of people gathered on the beach for fireworks flagged down Officer Alex Hurt, patrolling the beach in a police four-wheeler, and told him about the hatchlings, which were “going in every direction other than towards the water,” according to the report.
Turtle talks continue
Get the scoop on sea turtles at Turtle Talks, presented by Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring volunteers.
The 30-minute program of videos, photos and stories about the sea turtles that nest and hatch on the Island from May through October includes a description of how they survey for nesting turtles on the beaches.
Attendees will be the first to know the dates, times and locations of upcoming nest excavations, where volunteers dig into hatched nests to count the eggshells and determine the number of hatchlings produced.
Free gifts, including temporary turtle tattoos, will be distributed, and official AMITW T-shirts, stickers and ball caps will be available for a donation.
Tuesday, July 16, 10 a.m., CrossPointe Fellowship, 8605 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach
Tuesday, July 23, 10 a.m., CrossPointe Fellowship, 8605 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach
Tuesday, July 30, 10 a.m., CrossPointe Fellowship, 8605 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach
“The baby turtles were along the building, some falling in the landscaping planters,” according to Officer Adam DeSantis’ report.
“I located one baby turtle that had fallen off the edge of the sidewalk, in the landscaping, flipped on its back unable to flip back over,” he wrote. “I gathered up approximately 10 baby turtles from the Anna Maria Beach Resort property. The baby turtles were transported safely to the water’s edge, where they were released. The baby turtles found their way into the water safely.”
Other hatchlings trapped in the sea oats between the beach and the resort also were rescued and released, bringing the total saved to about 40, according to the report.
The city’s code compliance department has given the resort a directive to fix the lighting and appear before a special magistrate, Police Chief Bill Tokajer said, adding that the resort lighting will be checked nightly for compliance.
Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring Director Suzi Fox also contacted the resort about replacing its adjustable outdoor lighting system, which is out of compliance with the local turtle lighting ordinance.
The adjustable feature leads to lights being turned on during turtle season – May 1 to Oct. 31 – either intentionally or because people forget to change the settings, she said, adding that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission does not approve adjustable lighting for beachfront applications.
Disorientations are historically common in the area, Fox said.
“The police did a fine job photographing and helping pick up hatchlings,” she said, suggesting that hatchlings should be released in the water where it’s dark, “or they may come right back up out of the water.”
Tokajer estimates that 10,000 people were on the beach as late as 11 p.m. on the Fourth of July.