Just the other day I shared with y’all about my turtle patrol adventures. It’s an amazing thing to do, and I will be sad when the season comes to a close in a few weeks.
One thing I didn’t share in my last post was the struggle between the damage people do, and the help that we offer back.
We carry buckets with us each morning to help rescue hatchlings that may wander off, otherwise known as a disorientation. Most days, the buckets are sadly used for collecting trash. It is astounding to see how much garbage people leave on our pristine, world famous beaches. Honestly, I don’t understand.
We have made it into a scavenger hunt. Here’s the list: beer cans, water bottles, sand shovels, shoes (bonus if it’s a pair), towels, swim noodles, and various items of clothing. Most weeks we end up with at least one of each.
There was a tourist visiting from the Midwest who commended us for our efforts. She actually stopped us, walked 20 steps to her chair, gathered her garbage and brought it down to us. As if there wasn’t a trash can right behind her. We are there to help sea turtles, not cater to lazy tourists. Whatever, lady from Ohio. Thanks for your noble effort.
Trash is not just annoying. It is a danger to our turtle buddies, along with beach furniture and white lights. There are constantly chairs left near the shoreline, which will scare a nesting momma away. Beach furniture, holes and even castles are all hazardous for mommas and their baby hatchlings.
There are some protections in place, but they don’t always work. There is an ordinance requiring beach front lighting to be changed from white to amber during nesting season (May – October). Babies head toward the brightest light, which is naturally the horizon line. If someone leaves a lanai light on (that’s a Florida term for screened porch), the hatchlings will head right for it.
These are SEA turtles. They need to be in water as soon as possible after hatching. They cannot survive in a parking lot, pool deck, or front lawn for long.
One recent Wednesday morning, an entire nest hatched and became disoriented. It’s one of the things that is super exciting as a patrol volunteer. (Well, okay, we wish it didn’t happen at all. But rescuing babies? Yes, I’ll help with that!)
We had our buckets ready for this very occasion. We scurried around a condo parking lot, pool deck and lawn collecting the baby Loggerheads like they were Easter eggs.
We were able to capture 68 little ones that morning and released all but 2 back into the Gulf of Mexico. One didn’t make it, as they are not meant to live out of water for hours, and one went to the turtle nursery tank at the local sea life rehab center.
It just so happened that I got to visit the baby “W” the very next day where he was happily swimming. When he demonstrates that he is well enough to make it, they will release him too.
All of my (ahem) patient waiting paid off. I helped rescue baby sea turtles. You could say it was a bucket list moment.
Yes, it’s sad that people are irresponsible with trash, beach chairs and outside lights. But then there’s the upside. There are donors, scientists, and even lowly volunteers like myself who are advocating for this worthy cause.
I’m not an environmentalist, or an activist really. I just happen to love our beach and the fact that sea turtles nest here. It feels good to be part of the solution.
What causes are you rallying behind? What “wrongs” are you trying to make right in the world? Find something that makes you feel good, and go make a difference.
Thanks for reading, until next time,
“This sea turtle monitoring, research, or rescue was conducted under Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Marine Turtle Permits.”