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SCCF: Over 3,000 sea turtle hatchlings emerge safely

By Staff | Jul 15, 2020

Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan reported that hatching season is well underway, with 3,063 hatchlings emerging from the islands’ beaches already this year.

“It’s encouraging to see high hatch rates from so many of our nests after such a large percentage of them were washed over or inundated during Tropical Storm Cristobal,” she said on July 8.

On June 28, the first hatching of one Juniper’s nests was documented on Captiva, marking a very rare occurrence for the Gulf coast of Florida. SCCF Volunteer Permittee Kerry Salatino saw that the leatherback nest had hatched and was able to photograph two hatchlings still making their way the sea.

“The nest was being invaded by fire ants, so Kerry inventoried it immediately instead of waiting the standard three days,” Sloan said. “A total of 56 hatchlings made it to the Gulf of Mexico.”

One of the small black turtles – which are more than double the size of a loggerhead sea turtle hatchling – fell into a hole that had not been filled in by beach-goers.

“Fortunately, Kerry was able to rescue it from the hole and help it get safely to sea,” Sloan said.

“These hatchlings also crawled towards the dunes before turning towards the sea because of artificial lighting,” she added. “This is a great example of why it’s so important to fill in holes and turn off all lights visible from the beach.”

With about one month of nesting season left, nesting is still going strong and nest counts on both Sanibel and Captiva remain higher than they were at this time last year. As of July 8, there were 531 loggerhead nests on Sanibel and 218 nests on Captiva, compared to 521 and 148 in 2019, respectively.

To keep up with the islands’ nesting season on a daily basis, visit seaturtle.org/nestdb. To report issues with nests, nesting turtles, or hatchlings, contact the SCCF’s Sea Turtle Hotline at 978-728-3663.