Turtle nests at record high
Collier County and Sanibel Island in Lee County smashed the turtle nesting record for the second year in a row. The 1,510 nests laid on Collier beaches this season broke the 1,349 nest record from 2014 and the 522 nests laid on Sanibel broke the 2014 record of 411. Fort Myers Beach also set a record with its 73 nests. Turtle nesting season runs from May 1 to Oct. 31.
« We had a really good year, » said Maura Kraus, senior environmental specialist for Collier County who is in charge of turtle nesting.
Since 2012 the number of nests has been in the thousands on Collier beaches. Kraus believes it is conservation efforts such as Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDS) on fishing boats and light regulations on the beaches that are leading to this success.
« We’ve been doing sea turtle conservation for 30 years, » Kraus said. « It takes about 30 years for them to reach maturity. Hopefully we are seeing the results of our efforts. »
While there were more nests this year, there were fewer that hatched. This year 926 nests hatched in Collier County. Last year 1,040 hatched.
« At the end of July we had storms that lasted over a period of 3-4 days with extremely high tides so we did have some inundations and some washouts, » Kraus explained. « Last year we didn’t have any storm issues at all. »
This pattern was also seen on Sanibel and Captiva Islands. Captiva’s 133 nests were better than last year’s 124 nests, but one short of the 2013 record of 134.
« The numbers were incredible, » said Kelly Sloan, sea turtle program coordinator for the Sanibel/Captiva Conservation Foundation. « It was our second record season in a row. »
The 2015 numbers on Sanibel and Captiva include 26 green turtle nests, which is a record for green turtles there. Most of the turtles that lay eggs on the local beaches are loggerhead turtles.
The islands did lose 60 nests to the severe storms in July. This year volunteers put screens around the nests so the coyote problem was lessened, Sloan explained.
« We had a really, really good year, » Sloan said. « It’s too soon to know for sure, but we are hoping we are in the beginning season of recovery. We are all hopeful. »
Bonita Springs broke the 100 barrier for only the second time when 101 nests were laid on the beach this year. Fort Myers Beach also touted its highest number with 73 nests, while Hickory Island had nine.
« It all sounds great, but we did have horrendous rainfall and we lost some nests, » said Eve Haverfield, president and founder of Turtle Time, a volunteer organization that monitors sea turtles in south Lee County.
The storm washed away or flooded 31 nests on Fort Myers Beach, six on Bonita Beach and one on Hickory Island.
« We had some surprises on Bonita Beach, » Haverfield added. « I can think of four nests that were submerged in water and we didn’t think they would survive and they all hatched very well. We don’t ever give up and we love these surprises. »