Goal: To reduce the number of hatchling disorientation on Marco Island. Disorientations from the 2019 season was 15/77 nests or 19% in 2019.
Newborn sea turtles use mainly visual cues to find the ocean after emerging from the nest, according to sea turtle experts. If disrupted by bright artificial light from condos and hotels between the nest and the ocean they will become disoriented. Though there is a Sea Turtle Lighting Ordinance on Marco Island requiring beach facing residents to control their lighting or use bulbs that are sea turtle friendly, not everyone follows the rules.
Unfortunately, according to Sea Turtle Monitor Yesi Olvera, “we’ve had several disorientations in the last week. Nest #2 on Sand Dollar Island had a good amount of hatchlings that traveled about 500 feet south before their tracks disappeared in the water. Several hatchlings crawled as far as 1200 feet south of their nest before entering the water.”
Nest #6 in front of the Somerset Condo disoriented pretty badly. According to Yesi, it looked like most may have made it to the ocean eventually, but found one hatchling that had crawled through a side road heading into the Surf Club in the grass. Another hatchling was going up the boardwalk of the Hilton. As soon as they exited Nest #6, the hatchlings went north attracted to the bright lights of Hilton, Crystal Shores and Surf Club.
Nest #8 also reported a few tracks that went into the vegetation heading towards South Seas Towers 3 & 4. If somebody had their lights on—the hatchlings will head right for it—according to sea turtle experts.
When hatchlings are crawling for extended periods, it makes them more vulnerable to predators or being overheated. Remember, only one in 1,000 hatchlings will survive to adulthood!
Kudos to the Gulfview Condos for distributing sea turtle informational packet for each of their residents during sea turtle season. They acquired materials from the Sea Turtle Conservancy (for free at www.conserveturtles.org).