With Fort Myers Beach on the verge of having 100 turtle nests in one season for the first time in its monitoring history, Mother Nature threw a scare into everyone with the unexpected arrival of Tropical Storm Emily. According to Eve Haverfield, the founder of Turtle Time, Inc., a non-profit established in 1989 for the benefit of marine turtles on Big Hickory Island, and Bonita, Bunche, and Fort Myers Beaches, she remains optimistic that damage will be minimal.
“It is too early to tell,” she explains, “but Emily moved in and out fast. We inspected every nest, and while the storm washed over many, it did not wash any away. Turtle nests can tolerate water going over them, but problems occur when they suffer supersaturation over a long period of time, such as occurred with the week long rains in May and June that can prevent oxygen from reaching the eggs.”
Eve commented that Fort Myers Beach remained stuck on 98 nests for the past week. “While we are anxious to get over the century mark, I could not be happier with the numbers,” she says. “Remember turtles nest every other year, so we must compare figures to 2015, when we had 73 on Fort Myers Beach. Even better is Bonita Beach – it had 101 that year, but this year we already doubled that to 203. We hope this record number translates into a fair amount of hatchings that make it to the Gulf of Mexico.”
She urges beach residents and visitors to maintain conditions that improve the survival of the hatchlings, as Loggerheads nest through October 31. Females prefer dark beaches, with moonlight a navigational tool for hatchlings to reach the water, but if they see a brighter light, they head toward that and usually do not survive. “We have some nests surrounded by a silk screen but that is to allow babies to focus on the Gulf and not to block out lights. Please close your drapes, employ light shades, or best yet, switch to Amber LED lighting that does not attract turtles. Never use flashlights or flash photograph, as those ruin their night vision; like when someone suddenly turns on a light in a dark room and we cannot see either.”
A huge problem this year are holes in the beach that can trap hatchlings and adults. “Please fill these in,” Eve implores. “For some reason this season, the holes are enormous! Equally as important is to remove all furniture, boats, tents, toys or like items from the beach by 9 p.m. On the positive side, I commend the many beach residents and businesses who do a fantastic job in reminding guests about nesting etiquette. Now that nests are hatching, this is the time to be really serious about monitoring your lights and property.”