The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 16 No. 45 - September 7, 2016


Turtle nests swamped

Hurricane Hermine pushed the Gulf of Mexico high up onto Anna Maria Island's beaches last week, inundating the 173 sea turtle nests remaining in the sand, but at least one turtle mom was back on the beach to lay more eggs on Friday night, after the storm passed.

Eggs can survive a short time underwater, but after an inspection on Saturday, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring volunteers discovered that about 95 nests were lost, while the rest remained high and dry.

Many of the stakes that were marking the nests were lost, so Turtle Watch volunteers, who scour the beaches each morning for tracks, will be on the lookout for signs of unmarked nests that hatched the night before.

Turtle Watch Director Suzi Fox had volunteers remove Adopt-a-Turtle plaques on the stakes before the storm, so the plaques commemorating or congratulating loved ones are safe.

After a storm, people who venture out to the beach may see turtle eggs floating, but it is important to leave them alone, according to Meghan Koperski, of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The best chance for the eggs is not to move them around, she said, because sea turtles have a nesting strategy that accommodates for natural events; each female deposits several nests throughout the nesting season, May 1 through Oct. 31, hedging bets to make sure that even if a storm hits, there is a high probability that at least a few of the nests will incubate successfully.

No storm season is a total loss for Florida's sea turtles, according to Koperski. Even in 2004, when Florida sustained direct hits from Charlie, Frances, and Jeanne, 42 percent of statewide loggerhead nests hatched, and 40 percent of hatchlings successfully emerged from those nests, well within the normal range.

State guidelines no longer allow Turtle Watch volunteers to dig up nests and move them out of a storm's way, but they are authorized to rebury stranded eggs on dry beach. Any eggs or hatchlings seen on the beach should be reported to Turtle Watch at 941-778-5638.

Turtle Tips

During sea turtle season, May 1 – Oct. 31, please follow these tips:

• Turn off lights visible from the beach and close blinds from sundown to sunrise; lights confuse nesting sea turtles and may cause them to go back to sea and drop their eggs in the water, where they won't hatch. Light can also attract hatchlings away from the water.

• Don't use flashlights, light sticks, or cell phone or camera flashes on the beach at night.

• Remove all objects from the sand from sundown to sunrise; they can deter sea turtles from nesting and disorient hatchlings.

• Fill in the holes you dig in the sand before leaving the beach; they can trap nesting and hatching sea turtles, which cannot live long out of the water.

• Don't use sky lanterns or fireworks; they litter the beach and Gulf.

• Do not trim trees and plants that shield the beach from lights.

• Never touch a sea turtle; it's the law. If you see people disturbing turtles, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).

Manatee Tips

• Obey posted signs for manatee slow-speed zones.

• Wear polarized sunglasses to see manatees in your path.

• If you observe a manatee mating herd - several manatees gathered as males vie to mate with a female - watch from at least 100 feet away. Coming any closer might disrupt the mating or endanger you; adult manatees typically weigh more than 1,000 pounds.

• Never feed or water manatees as they will become habituated to people, which could put them at risk of injury.

• Stow trash and line when underway. Marine debris that blows overboard can become ingested by or entangled around manatees.

• Report stranded or dead manatees to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Wildlife Alert hotline at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922).

Bird tips

During bird nesting season, March through August, please follow these tips:

• Never touch a shorebird chick, even if it's wandering outside a staked nesting area.

• Teach kids not to chase birds – bird parents may abandon nests if they're disturbed.

• Don't feed birds – it encourages them to fly at people aggressively and is not good for their health.

• If birds are screeching and flying at you, you're too close.

• Avoid posted bird nesting areas and use designated walkways to the beach.

• Keep pets away from bird nesting areas.

• Keep the beach clean; food scraps attract predators such as raccoons and crows to the beach, and litter can entangle birds and other wildlife.

• If you see people disturbing nesting birds, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).

Dolphin Tips


• Stay at least 50 yards away from dolphins when viewing from a vessel or watercraft.

• Limit time spent observing dolphins to 30 minutes or less.

• Avoid making loud or sudden noises near dolphins.

• Move away slowly if a dolphin's behavior indicates the animal is stressed or disturbed.

• Look Before You Book! Book wild dolphin viewing tours with businesses that responsibly view dolphins in the wild and help dolphin conservation. See Facebook "Don't Feed Wild Dolphins" and "Dolphin SMART."

• Put your vessel's engine in neutral if in the close vicinity of dolphins.

• Call for help if you hook a dolphin on a fishing line or see a stranded or injured dolphin - Mote Marine's Stranding Investigations Program, 941-988-0212.


• Pursue, swim with, pet or touch wild dolphins, even if they approach you.

• Feed or attempt to feed wild dolphins.

• Encircle or entrap dolphins with vessels.

• Direct a vessel or accelerate toward dolphins with the intent of creating a pressure wake to bow or wake-ride.

• Separate mother/calf pairs.

• Drive watercraft through or over groups of dolphins.

Nesting news

Sea turtles

Turtle nests laid: 432

False crawls: 834

Nests hatched: 224

Not hatched: 146

Nests remaining: 62

Hatchlings to Gulf: 17,602

Nest disorientations: 25

Source: Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring

Source: Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring

Adopt a turtle nest

Loggerhead sea turtle nests are up for adoption on Anna Maria Island beaches, to commemorate weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, lost loved ones or just for the love of nature. The 11-year-old program raises funds for Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring. For a tax deductible donation of $100, adoptive parents receive the adoption plaque that was posted on the nest, a video of the nest, data from the nest, such as how many turtles hatched and when, and a letter of appreciation. To adopt, visit


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