“We have our first Fort Myers Beach turtle nest for this season, so Wahoo!” exclaimed Eve Haverfield, founder of Turtle Time, Inc., a non-profit established in 1989 to benefit nesting marine turtles on Big Hickory Island and Bonita, Bunche and Fort Myers Beaches. “We discovered it Monday morning, May 13, near mid-island, so it is fantastic we finally have a nest! It’s about time, as we already have 18 on Bonita Beach!”
Eve reported that “the first FMB nest equates well with 2017, as our initial one was May 11. Last year, our first was May 1, but we had a big gap until our second on May 16. At this same point on Bonita Beach for the last two seasons, we only had five each year.” In 2018, Turtle Time had 297 total nests, including 68 on Fort Myers Beach; 2017 is the benchmark year, with 327 total nests and the FMB record of 99.
The primary bane to nesting turtles and hatchlings is artificial light that can prevent females from coming ashore or lead to them choosing an inferior nesting location. Lights disorient hatchlings, causing them to move toward that source and away from the Gulf, resulting in death from dehydration, exhaustion or automobiles. In addition to using Amber LED lights, close drapes or blinds after dark, never shine a flashlight or use flash photography on sea turtles, move boats or beach furniture behind beach vegetation nightly, keep dogs leashed, and fill in holes in the sand as hatchlings and adults can fall in and die.
The Town of Fort Myers Beach implemented two new programs this year to protect nesting sea turtles. You can purchase Amber LED turtle-friendly lights directly at Town Hall, for cost at $8.50 and Rae Burns, the Town’s Environmental Technician, will conduct a free lighting inspection of your home or business. You can also order Wildlife Friendly Fixtures directly from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at www.myFWC.com. Rae also conducts turtle lighting inspections Wednesday evenings, after sunset; to schedule one, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you accidently hook a sea turtle, or find one in distress or dead, immediately contact Turtle Time at 239-481-5566 or www.turtletime.org, the FWC Hotline at 888-404-3922, or the Town at 239-765-4222.