Beachcombers love SEA TURTLES just as much as sandy toes and seashells.
Beginning in the late 1950s, Charles LeBuff started monitoring the nesting habits of female SEA TURTLES on Sanibel to evaluate threats to the population. Since the 1990’s Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation’s Sea Turtle Program (along with 100s of volunteers) now surveys each nesting season which runs April through October. Through the years they’ve learned that to protect our nesting mothers and their babies, we need to keep our beaches clear of obstacles.
I normally enjoy seeing beautiful beach art but it can be disastrous for a female turtle in nesting season. On our island summer nights, female loggerhead turtles (and occasionally green turtles, leatherbacks and Kemps Ridley turtles) lay their eggs on the same beach where they were hatched decades earlier. If left over night, obstructions like sand castles, beach chairs, coolers or even deep sand pits can distract or injure the mother turtle or her babies after they hatch. Did you know that lights on the beach after dark can disorient adult and baby turtles? Yes, they go towards the light instead of heading to the water so they might end up in the street or parking lot. So we wont be doing any night shelling without red filters on our flashlights until fall. Not a bad price to pay for keeping baby turtles safe, huh?
As I was walking the beach yesterday at Gulfside City Park, I saw this deep trench that was dug out of the sand. Ut Oh! SEA TURTLES can get trapped in there.
As soon as I started filling the pit back in, Steve from the Sanibel Police beach patrol came to the rescue. He got out his shovel and smoothed the beach back to normal. You’re a good man, Steve.
I was a turtle tracker a few years ago with my friend Lisa and found a baby turtle in a big sand pit with lots of seashells on the beach. The baby turtle had been making his way to the water but got a little off track when he fell into this pit (photo below). He couldn’t get out since the sides were so steep but he moved his flippers just enough to catch my eye. We called our contact person at SCCF to make sure to follow protocol to rescue this little cutie and I was so happy to get the a-okay to pick him up and release him at the edge of the gulf. Yeah! We rescued him and watched him swim away with all his might.
As shellers, we are on the beach probably more than anybody else so we can help do our part in making our beaches as safe as possible for these little cuties.
My good friend Karen Blackford took a video of SEA TURTLES hatching a few years ago. I always love to watch it each year to remind myself what a journey they have and how we can make the beaches safe for the. Thanks Karen! CLICK HERE.
For more information on nesting SEA TURTLES or to volunteer visit http://whmp.sccf.org/sea-turtles/