Resident discovers rare green sea turtle nest
According to members of the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation’s sea turtle monitoring program, the first green sea turtle nest of the year was discovered on the morning of June 3.
The nest was found by walker Linda Gornick, who has previously served as a turtle nest permittee, said on Tuesday afternoon that when she first happened upon the scene she was “perplexed and puzzled.”
“I’ve always known that sea turtles crawling up the sand leave a space between their flippers, and this one didn’t have any space between them,” she said. “It looked like two turtles had come up together. But then I thought that it might be a green.”
The majority of sea turtle nesting on Sanibel is done by loggerheads, who have distinctly different tracks and nest characteristics than green sea turtles. Aside from having the typical parallel flipper marks of a green, the crawl itself was wider than a loggerhead’s crawl.
Another telltale sign was the huge body pit and large mound of sand camouflaging the nest area.
Over the years, Gornick had marked dozens of sea turtle nests and identified many turtle crawls. However, she had never personally seen a green sea turtle crawl.
“Every once in a while, I would look closely at the markings and thought maybe it was a green,” said Gornick. “But when I saw this one, a light went off. I knew this was it.”
According to the SCCF, this is the first such nest discovered on the east end of Sanibel since 2004 and only the third in the last 10 years. In fact, the entire island has only found 19 green sea turtle nests in the last decade. Green sea turtles are rare on the west coast of Florida and are listed as endangered species both statewide and federally.
Gornick immediately notified permittee Tom Krekel, who quickly realized it was not the average crawl.
“When I first arrived, I was a little unsure what it was,” he said. “The markings were parallel, which is typical for green turtles. Loggerheads leave flipper marks that go from side to side, but these marks indicated otherwise.”
Krekel sent photos of both the nest and crawl to SCCF sea turtle monitoring program coordinator Amanda Bryant, who in turn forwarded the images to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for confirmation.
Although the rare discovery was made three weeks ago, the nest was only officially confirmed to be from a green sea turtle on Thursday, June 18.
Krekel noted that the nest of green sea turtles differ from loggerheads because of a secondary body pit, which are much larger than what are typically seen.
“They’re not as big as ones left by leatherbacks, but they are much larger than loggerheads,” said Krekel. “I’d wished it were a leatherback, because those are very rare.”
He also explained that green sea turtle hatchlings emerge after approximately 60 days, which they expect to happen sometime around the first week in August, and that SCCF is taking a “special interest” in this particular nest this season.
“I’m just thrilled beyond imagination,” Gornick added.