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Turtle nests left as record-breaking season winds down

By SCCF - | Oct 7, 2020

SCCF Pepper, a loggerhead sea turtle

Sea turtle season is starting to wind down on the islands. As of last week, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation was monitoring 16 nests, a substantial difference from the record number of 669 nests on Sanibel and 268 nests on Captiva earlier this season.

Even though nesting has stopped and now SCCF is monitoring hatchlings, the Sea Turtle Program’s research on adult turtles has not. For the first time, three loggerheads were satellite tagged after successfully nesting on Sanibel this season.

Junonia, Periwinkle and Pepper are part of a study to learn more about the post-nesting movements, migratory pathways and foraging grounds of loggerheads that nest on the Gulf Coast of Florida. A high-profile study by researchers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and University of Central Florida suggests that the quality of foraging grounds can have an impact on a turtle’s reproductive success.

Pepper and Periwinkle were both outfitted with satellite transmitters in July.

Pepper was tagged after she laid her last nest. Then she went south. Once she hit the Keys, Pepper traveled east and made her way to the Bahamas. Shortly thereafter, she once again headed south, ending up in the waters off the coast of Cuba. Pepper had traveled over 1,100 miles as of last week.

SCCF Follow Pepper and Perwinkle at www.trackturtles.com.

Periwinkle took a similar path to Pepper, heading south toward the Keys after her last nest of the season. She, however, did not swim east out of the Keys, but has remained in a small area just north of Cudjoe Key. It appears that Periwinkle has strong site fidelity to her foraging grounds in the area.

“Tracking their movements after they leave the nesting beach will allow us to define and protect the marine habitats that are important for their survival,” Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan said.

Junonia was tagged in June, but her tag stopped transmitting about a month later. Unfortunately, at that time, she had not yet begun migrating. Junonia’s foraging grounds remain unknown.

A tag that stops transmitting does not imply a negative outcome for the turtle. Satellite transmitters can stop transmitting for a number of reasons, such as the tag detaching or the sensors/antenna becoming obstructed by algal or barnacle growth.

Follow Pepper and Perwinkle at www.trackturtles.com.