Collecting Turtle Nests Hatch Data

It’s the time of year when sea turtle nests hatch and that means lots of work for Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch. Volunteers walk the beach daily to check the status of marked nests and for tracks of hatch-lings in the sand. The hatch-lings dig their way out from under the sand, usually during the night, and attracted by the moonlight over the water make their journey to the sea.
Turtle nest staked out

Three days after the nests have hatched, licensed personnel excavate the turtle nest site to collect data. By counting the empty shells the number of hatched turtles are recorded, along with unhatched, unfertilized eggs and ones that died in the hole. Sometimes a few left behind are retrieved out of the collapsed sand, protected from day-time predators, and re-released at night.

Turtle nest stakesA typical loggerhead turtle nest has about 100 eggs. About 90 hatch and make it to the sea. The chances of a newborn reaching maturity 20 years later is about 1 in 1000. Females find their way back to their place of birth to nest.

Excavating hatched turtle nestThe best chance of hatch-lings surviving and returning is for them to crawl the distance from the nest site all the way across the beach to reach the water, and swim out to sea. It may have something to do with memories or bonds to the sand and location that is retained for later return navigation. The crawl is fraught with perils, however, from birds, crabs, and tourist’s holes on the beach to then become vulnerable to predators in the water. Disorientation can occur when lights from beach houses and condos are stronger than the night’s moonlight and the hatch-lings head in the wrong direction, only to be trapped in vegetation, swimming pools, parking lots and crushed by street traffic. Hatchlings5_7

This year there have been 354 369 nests discovered and marked on Anna Maria Island. As of mid August late October, 23,234 baby turtles have emerged.

If you come across baby turtles on the beach do not use flash photography or shine lights on them. Only permitted people may handle turtles. If baby turtles appear to be disoriented and heading away from water, call Turtle Watch 941-778-5638 or 248-982-5500 with your nearest street location. If you are in a house or condo on the beach, turn off porch and balcony lights, and close drapes and blinds at night. Do not leave chairs or canopies on the beach or holes in the sand. Disturbing turtle nests or handling turtles is a Federal and State felony.

For more information about turtles and shorebirds go to Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring website.

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