The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 17 No. 5 - November 16, 2016


Turtles crawl to a record year

Sea turtles had a record year in more ways than one on Anna Maria Island, according to Suzi Fox, director of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring.

The record of 435 nests is higher than the next closest record year of 2013 by 66 nests, and higher than the 15-year average by 246 nests.

Why, especially in a year with two hurricanes and a severe tropical storm that destroyed 145 nests?

Mostly, it’s due to 34 years of Turtle Watch volunteers caring for turtles and educating visitors, residents and business owners, Fox told volunteers on Saturday at an appreciation luncheon marking the end of the 2016 turtle season.

Fox applauded 86 volunteers for walking more than 3,800 miles this season, which began on May 1 and ended on Oct. 31.

The number of turtle hatchlings that made it to the Gulf of Mexico, 18,328, was the third highest in the organization’s history, within 21 percent of the highest year, 2015, with 23,234 hatchlings, she said.

However, 28 nests were disoriented by lights, with Bradenton Beach having three times more than the other two Island cities, she said, adding that Turtle Watch plans to test a drone before next season to help identify turtle lighting ordinance violators.

Another device also may help with disorientations, she said – the Turtle Eye, in collaboration with Manatee County, will provide devices to look through and see whether beachfront lighting is visible to sea turtles, which will enable anyone to tell accommodations managers about possible turtle lighting violations.

Another new project, “Dunes do’s and do not’s,” also in collaboration with Manatee County with the assistance of Christine Callahan, the butterfly garden coordinator at Anna Maria Elementary School, will provide free laminated signs decorated by local children warning people not to walk on or pick sea oats from sand dunes.

A Think Tank unit of educators also has been selected to design a new educational program for public speaking and teaching engagements, she said.


Fox recognized new volunteers with baby bottles filled with Halloween candy: Bill Booher, Bev Lesnick, Kathy Noonan, Mark Pelea, Janet Pierson, Todd and Gidget Reese and Lynn Whiteford; and “semi-newbies” returning to the program full time, Carole Bringham, Tonya May and Christine Olsen.

Fox also recognized volunteers in the bird stewarding program, Karen Anderson, Barbara A., Bill Booher, Anne Camp, Mary Lecheidner, Mark Pelea, Joe and Cindy Richmond, Ashely Scarpa, John Schimkaitius and Kelly Schimkaitius.

New coordinators for the Island’s seven turtle zones – Anne Camp and Bob and Debbie Haynes – were awarded car wash vouchers and new buckets with seat lids decorated by local schoolchildren, along with returning coordinators Debbie Basilius, Kathy Doddridge, Pete Gross, John Schimkaitius, his daughter Kelly Schimkaitius and granddaughter Mary Heazlit, and Lee and Marv Zerkel.

Also recognized were Turtle Talk volunteers, beach market volunteers and Karen Anderson, who received a plaque for her school project.

Nesting news

Sea turtles

Turtle nests laid: 435

False crawls: 833

Nests hatched: 235

Not hatched: 200

Nests remaining: 0

Hatchlings to Gulf: 18,328

Nest disorientations: 28

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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