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Leatherback encountered for first time on Sanibel

By Staff | May 20, 2020

SCCF Nighttime surveying

For the first time in the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation’s history, a nesting leatherback was encountered during the nighttime surveys just after midnight on May 11.

Having first discovered her false crawl earlier in the night, the sea turtle team was excited to find her monstrous tracks again, this time hopefully leading up the beach to a turtle in the process of successfully nesting. Luckily, they were able to do just that and could not have been more thrilled.

“Having a total of three rare leatherback nests this season has been so encouraging. To finally be able to see one while she nested was an amazing experience,” Research Associate Jack Brzoza said. “A new turtle to our beaches, we named her Juniper,” he added. “We are very hopeful this isn’t the last time we will get to see her this season.”

During the nighttime surveys that began on May 1, so far the team has encountered 39 turtles. Out of this sample size, 17 were previously tagged on Sanibel, and two are from other tagging beaches on Florida’s Gulf coast. Tagging provides valuable data on nesting site selection, growth and site fidelity.

This season the turtles are off to a hot start and the team has encountered more than expected for mid-May. The average number of turtles encountered by the night teams by May 12 is about seven, so it has seen about five times as many as usual. Overall, nesting is more than three times higher than usual for now, with a total of 67 loggerhead nests on Sanibel and 21 loggerhead nests on Captiva.

SCCF Rare leatherback sea turtle lays a nest.

To keep up with the islands’ nesting season on a daily basis, visit seaturtle.org/nestdb.

To report any issues with nests, nesting turtles, or hatchlings, call the SCCF’s Sea Turtle Hotline at 978-728-3663.

SCCF Rare leatherback sea turtle lays a nest.

SCCF Rare leatherback sea turtle lays a nest.