Saturday, July 19, 2008

Turtle season hatching success, questions

Saturday, July 19, 2008 — Time: 12:41:05 AM EST


One could wonder, what keeps Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation sea turtle coordinator, Amanda Bryant, on her toes more - caring for the endangered sea turtles she monitors or working with folks who come in contact with the reptiles?Hint - it’s not the four-legged critters.

The Loggerhead sea turtles seem to be pretty adept at doing their turtle business which at this time consists of nesting, laying eggs or for the hatchings - waddling out to sea.“They’ve been doing this along time, they know what they’re doing,” Bryant said.And considering the islands as well as other coastal communities are in the midst of turtle nesting season which runs from May to October - having your sea turtle legs is a good thing.

Bryant spends her time monitoring and marking sea turtle nests.Apparently the shelled animals are really working those sea legs well because they are producing more eggs.“This year were cautiously optimistic,” Bryant said.But though the higher numbers of eggs are encouraging, as far as the numbers go, officials remain wary.“One year really isn’t enough to say anything,” Bryant said.State numbers must be tallied first. The results should be available by at the start of next turtle season, Bryant said.Aside from fertile turtles in a potentially favorable environment, people also make a great difference in turtle nesting season.

Since the start of the season, Bryant has about 100 volunteers to work with. And most of these volunteers as well as many island residents are in the know about sea turtles.One group of folks actually put their muscles together and helped hoist a 200 pound turtle mom out of her nesting hole she became stuck in.Some people however, are still not quite up on their sea turtle education yet.Bryant said she recalls a recent experience where a tourist couple from Louisiana snapped flash photograpy at nesting turtles the encountered on the beach, then called 911 for assistance.“They didn’t know what to do,” Bryant said.And in case you didn’t know, certain activities such as flash photography are not permitted because the light can confuse turtle hatchlings trying to amble out to sea. For this reason lights are not permitted near beaches at night.Beach furniture is also not allowed since the sometimes 200 pound egg-laying turtles can get entangled in them when they come ashore to find a place to nest.“A nesting sea turtle does not have reverse,” Bryant said.

Bryant, 25, tends to take much of her daily activities with people and turtles in her stride. As long as people are not doing anything to cause harm to the reptiles she tries to work with the litany of questions and colorful interactions between man and turtle.During monitoring missions on the local beaches Bryant and her volunteers tends to draw crowds and questions as she unearths eggs and hatchings. She even laughs how some bystanders even holler at her to leave nests alone until they learn that she works for SCCF.“People are just really curious,” she said. “I look at it as an opportunity to educate.”

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