Monday, June 21, 2010

More turtles this year


These are busy times for female turtles on local beaches.

"We are experiencing an increase in nesting over this time last year," said Tara Dodson, habitat conservation coordinator with the St. Johns County Environmental Division. "We have no idea why. But these are animals. It's nature that they fluctuate so much."

Turtle nesting season is from May 1 through Oct. 31. Thursday, there were 156 nests, 48 more than last year.

Last Thursday, Richard Smith, turtle permit holder for the South Ponte Vedra Turtle Patrol photographed a loggerhead turtle on the beach during the day.

Smith said in approximately 20 years living on Ponte Vedra Beach, he has not seen another large turtle on the shore in daylight.

Dodson said daytime sightings of the three local species ­-- loggerhead, green and leatherback -- are rare.

"In 2008, we had one Leatherback turtle that nested in the day and one Loggerhead that attempted it," she said. "We had no daytime nesting in 2009."

Dodson urges beachgoers to keep a safe distance from turtles and nests and to call the division at (904) 227-0023 if they see hatchlings.

She said among the man-made threats to turtles are people leaving catamarans on the beach overnight. Turtles, including hatchlings, can be trapped under the vessels and die.

She also advises people who live along the beach to turn out any lights that might be visible at night from the ocean and those making sand castles to fill them in when they leave the beach.

"Basically we ask for people to leave the beach as it was when they got there, or better," Dodson said.

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