Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan was on beach patrol last month when she came upon the rare opportunity to see and film baby loggerhead sea turtles emerge from a nest on Captiva Island.
Inventory of the nest three days later showed 90 hatchlings successfully emerged and scurried towards the Gulf of Mexico.
“The screen on top of the nest is to discourage predation,” explained Sloan. “They have been very effective in lowering nest depredation rates on the islands.”
It is estimated 1 in 1,000 hatchlings have a chance of surviving to maturity. Predation of sea turtles by crabs, birds, fish, sharks and mammals is a natural part of the food chain. However, eggs and hatchlings can also become victims of coyotes, ghost crabs and fire ants. Sloan says an easy way to avoid attracting predators is to keep our beaches free of trash.
Filling in holes on the beach, removing beach furniture and turning off all lights visible from the beach that can disorient the baby turtles are simple ways to help them make it to the water. SCCF Volunteer Permittee Kerry Salatino recently rescued a leatherback hatchling from a hole that was not filled in by beachgoers on Captiva.
“These hatchlings also crawled towards the dunes before turning towards the sea because of artificial lighting,” said Sloan. “This is a great example of why it’s so important to fill in holes and turn off lights visible from the beach.”
We’ve played this video over and over again, and think you might end up doing so, too!