MARCO ISLAND — Odds of survival for a loggerhead sea turtle hatchling aren’t in their favor, but 2009 was a successful year for the protected species.
Researcher Mary Nelson, known on Marco Island as the Turtle Lady, reported that about four times as many sea turtles survived the nesting season thus far this year compared to last season. The season officially ends Nov. 1 when evening lighting restrictions near the beach will relax again for several months.
“We only had a total of 34 nests last year and because of Tropical Storm Fay and two hurricanes, Gustav and Ike, only 13 of those nests hatched,” Nelson said.
She added that the most likely cause of the demise of the hatchlings in 2008 was storm surge.
A little more than 1,000 hatchlings survived last year and their odds of survival are only one out of a thousand, Nelson reported.
The Loggerhead turtle is on the threatened species list. The first sea turtle made her way onto the beach on May 8 and the last nest hatched on Oct. 9, according to data provided in the CityScape newsletter released Wednesday by City Public Information Coordinator Lisa Douglass.
Loggerheads usually have about 4 nests per season at intervals of approximately 14 days, City Environmental Specialist Nancy Richie reported in the newsletter.
The size of clutches, which are the holes in the ground where turtles nest, vary from about 100 to 126 eggs and incubation takes on average 55 to 60 days for most clutches.
Hatchlings generally emerge at night, which is way laws and city codes require lights along the beach to be off by during nesting season.
Fifty-five nests were documented and monitored on Marco this season. Six of these nests were either washed away or inundated with storm related high tides in June, per the report.
“Biologists dug three marked nests up to determine that the area did not have eggs laid, rather the mother crawled ashore and returned without laying her eggs,” Richie wrote.
This is called a false crawl when the mother turtle chooses to dig her clutch, but doesn’t lay her eggs for various conditions that seem to dissuade her.
Nearly 3,926 hatchlings emerged from nests on Marco Island this year compared to about 1,000 in 2008.
The nests were in three locations with 597 turtles emerging at Hideaway Beach; 2,480 on Marco beach and 849 turtles on Sand Dollar Beach.