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Cristobal’s winds, high tides wash away turtle nests

By Staff | Jun 12, 2020

SCCF High tide during Tropical Storm Cristobal.

The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation reported that Tropical Storm Cristobal recently passed through the Gulf of Mexico delivering high winds and waves to the islands’ shores and intensifying high tides.

SCCF Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan said her team’s assessment found that 29 loggerhead nests were washed away by the high tides and surf. More nests were washed over, but Sloan reported that is not a death sentence and can actually help keep eggs cooler.

The rough seas did not deter Juniper, a rare leatherback sea turtle, though. She returned on June 6 and nested again on Captiva, bringing her total documented nests on the islands to six. Leatherbacks very rarely nest on Florida’s Gulf coast as they prefer Southeast Florida beaches along the Atlantic Ocean.

As of June 10, the total count of nests that had been laid was at 401 for Sanibel and Captiva, including one green sea turtle nest. Sloan also reported that the team’s nighttime tagging project has resulted in encounters with 152 females on the beach so far this summer, and it has seen 29 of those turtles more than once.

“There are three turtles that we’ve already seen four times this year – Smores, Green Tea and Pisa,” she said.

SCCF Loggerhead sea turtle returning to sea on June 10.

As a pretty rare occurrence, it has encountered one turtle three summers in a row. The team first met Junonia on July 14, 2016, when she false crawled on the east end of Sanibel. It also saw her in 2018 and 2019.

“It’s fairly unusual for loggerheads to nest for three consecutive seasons. We’ve seen her four out of the five years since we first launched our tagging project, so she’s a familiar face on our beaches,” Sloan said. “We hope to see her again soon.”

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.