There’s no place like home, just ask our Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation friends who are part of the nighttime sea turtle tagging team.
“Generally, sea turtles exhibit ‘natal homing,’ which means nesting females will lay nests near the same beach they hatched from,” explains SCCF Sea Turtle Biologist Savannah Weber. “Some turtles have very precise natal homing, where they lay nests within a few miles from the exact spot of beach from which they hatched. Others have more general homing, where they may lay anywhere within the general region of where they originally hatched.”
Previously tagged turtles seen this year have included frequent nesters such as Venus and Conch, who have been encountered every one-to-two years since 2016. Staff were also pleased to see the return of Junonia, a satellite-tagged loggerhead who has nested on Sanibel for six of the past seven years.
Since SCCF’s tagging project began in 2016, staff have come across over 950 unique individual sea turtles. As of May 30, they’ve encountered 86 unique sea turtles just this nesting season.
“Sea turtles without tags could be first-time nesters, returning turtles that weren’t encountered by the team in previous years, or turtles that have nested on other beaches that aren’t monitored by nighttime teams,” Savannah said. “We’ve been seeing an average of four or five sea turtles each night, which is nearly twice the average last year at this time.”
Something you may not know? After SCCF applies tags to these turtles — which allows staff and other scientists to see the individual’s nesting and movement patterns — the team also gets the pleasure of “naming” the turtle according to their annual theme.
Themes in past years have included shells, ice cream flavors, spices, and Pokémon.
This nesting season, the theme is female musical artists. Some of the names given to sea turtles found on Sanibel and Captiva islands this year include Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, Gwen Stefani, Fergie and Tina Turner!