Sea turtle stuck under beach chair
Longboat Key Turtle Watch volunteers on June 12 freed a loggerhead turtle from a beach chair when her shell became stuck on the chair. The trapped turtle was found by members of the Longboat Key Turtle Watch, a group of volunteers operating under the government-issued research permit held by Mote.
The volunteers freed the turtle and the animal returned to sea without leaving a nest. According to Turtle Watch volunteer Cyndi Seamon, this incident serves as a reminder to keep beaches clutter-free for the nesting sea turtle population from May through October, when turtles are emerging each night to lay their eggs.
Beach chairs and other furnishings can be an obstacle to nesting sea turtles and may cause them to false crawl, which is leaving the beach without leaving a nest. Sea turtle hatchlings can also become disoriented among all the furniture and not make it to the water. The sea turtles additionally may become entangled and can unwittingly carry furniture back into the water with them, causing them to drown.
Each night, furniture should removed from the beach, or at very least pulled back to the dune line where the vegetation meets the beach. When furniture must be left at the dune line, it should be stacked, which helps prevent turtles from getting it caught on their shells.
Seamon informed Longboat Key News that “There appear to be a few beachfront properties that look like they are trying to make the beach safer for the sea turtles,” but some properties are not doing as well; leaving many furniture obstacles for the sea turtles (see photos).
All sea turtles are threatened or endangered species protected under state and federal laws. Removing furniture each day is voluntary by the condominium, property owner or resort, and is done in an effort to protect turtles, and nightly furniture removal during nesting season is required on other county beaches by the Sarasota County Marine Turtle Protection Code.
According to the Sarasota County website, their instructions are: “Please remove beach furniture, cabanas, and other objects each evening during sea turtle nesting and hatching season from May 1st through October 31st. If items cannot be removed from the beach, please consolidate them (e.g. stacking beach chairs and lounges) and store them in a designated ‘safe zone’ or as far back on the beach as possible.”
Sea turtle tips
If you encounter a nesting turtle or hatchlings, remain quiet and observe from a distance
Shield or turn off outdoor lights that are visible on the beach from May through October
Close drapes after dark and stack beach furniture at the dune line or, ideally, remove it from the beach
Fill in holes that may entrap hatchlings on their way to the water
Approach nesting turtles or hatchlings, make noise, or shine lights at turtles
Use flashlights or fishing lamps on the beach
Encourage a turtle to move while nesting or pick up hatchlings that have emerged and are heading for the water
Use fireworks on the beach
If you see a sick, injured or stranded sea turtle in Sarasota or Manatee county waters, contact Mote Marine Laboratory’s Stranding Investigations Program at 941-988-0212. Outside of Sarasota or Manatee counties, please call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at 888-404-FWCC (3922).
If you suspect that someone is tampering with a sea turtle nest, harassing a sea turtle or has possession of a sea turtle or any of its parts, please call FWC, call your local sheriff’s department and/or call Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program at 941-388-4331.
If you find sea turtle hatchlings that are not on the beach or are headed away from the ocean, call Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program for instructions. Put rescued hatchlings into a bucket with a layer of damp sand and cover the bucket with a towel. Do not put hatchlings in water or take them into air conditioning. Hatchlings heading towards the ocean should be left alone.
Saturday Turtle Walks are ongoing through the end of July, contact the Longboat Key Turtle Watch at lbkturtlwatch.com for more information.
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