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More than 40 sea turtle nests on islands

By Staff | May 13, 2020

SCCF

UPDATE (May 13, 2020):

On May 6, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation reported that staff had documented 43 sea turtle nests so far between the two islands – 29 nests on Sanibel and 14 nests on Captiva.

The night before, SCCF Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan was able to snap a few photos – without using flash, just a long exposure lit by the moon – of a nesting loggerhead.

“It’s hard to believe on this day last year we only had five nests on Sanibel and one nest on Captiva,” she said. “We can’t say that it has to do with fewer people on the beach, but it’s more likely due to the warmer water this season.”

This year’s phenomenal activity includes two, rare leatherback nests, which prompted the Jupiter-based Florida Leatherbacks organization to travel over to try to get information on the nesting leatherback.

SCCF

“We think it may have been the same leatherback that laid both nests, so they came over last weekend to see if she might nest again,” Sloan said. “They have been out on the beach at night with us for the last few nights and are going to try to encounter her one more time tonight.”

Also, the SCCF sea turtle team kicked off the fifth season of its nighttime research program.

“Starting on May 1, our team surveys the beach from sunset to sunrise in search of nesting females,” she said. “When a turtle is encountered, we measure the turtle and apply tags so we can identify that individual on future nesting events and learn about her behavior.”

Information obtained at night gives the team insight into metapopulation dynamics, temporal and spatial nesting patterns, habitat use and more. Managers use the data to identify emerging threats and develop informed conservation strategies.

“This year we’re also collecting blood from nesting females to determine the long-term effects of the 2018 red tide bloom on maternal health,” Sloan said. “Many of our loggerheads are on a two-year nesting cycle, which means a large percentage of the turtles we see on the beach this year were also here during the catastrophic red tide event.”

PHOTO PROVIDED SCCF staffers kicked of the nighttime sea turtle research program on May 1.

The team will be able to identify the turtles by their tags. The blood samples will allow it to learn more about how the red tide’s brevetoxin accumulation affects the health of the nesting females and if the toxins might be transferred to the hatchlings via the yolk sac.

Funding for the red tide research comes from the RESTORE Act.

To report issues with nests, nesting turtles, or hatchlings, call the Sea Turtle Hotline at 978-728-3663. To learn more about SCCF’s sea turtle research, visit www.sccf.org/our-work/sea-turtle-research.

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ORIGINAL (May 6, 2020):

The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation reported today that there are now 29 sea turtle nests on Sanibel and 14 nests on Captiva. On May 5, Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan snapped a few photos – without using flash, just a long exposure lit by the moon – of a nesting loggerhead. She stated, “It’s hard to believe on this day last year we only had five nests on Sanibel and one nest on Captiva. We can’t say that it has to do with fewer people on the beach, but it’s more likely due to the warmer water this season.” This year’s phenomenal activity on the islands includes two, rare leatherback nests.