It’s a wash for sea turtle nesting on Boca’s beaches

“Turtles went about their business like it was any other year,” Gumbo Limbo’s David Anderson on the last day of sea turtle nesting season. “We had an above-average year for total nests, but not record-breaking,” said the nature center’s conservation coordinator.

“The pandemic and beach closure did not have much effect on nesting or the season as a whole,” he said. “If anything, when the beach was closed, nesting turtles had more privacy. And we saw slightly fewer false crawls during that time. The nest-to-false crawl ratio was around 50%, where it typically is anyway. Even on unpopulated beaches.”

Here’s the stats from the 5 miles of Boca’s beaches that were monitored through Oct. 31:

  • 108 nests lost, about 80% were storms and high tides; the other 20% were foxes and raccoons
  • 901 total nests: 756 loggerheads, 132 greens, 13 leatherbacks
  • 1,440 false crawls: 1,240 loggerheads, 197 greens, 3 leatherbacks
  • 2,341 total crawls
  • 38% of the time a turtle emerged, she nested

Anderson considers that a win-win. “Females generally nest every other year and come back to the beach they were born on,” Anderson said. “Greens are pretty accurate. Leatherbacks may be in the same county.”

Today, Saturday, was the last day the staff will monitor Boca’s beaches for sea turtle nests. “We would respond if someone calls on us,” he said. But more typically it would be a hatchling issue.

“In a normal year, we average about 12,000 hatchlings a year coming through our facility. The majority are released at night, the very same night they came in,” he said. “Due to COVID, nature center and beach closures, staff shortages on beaches, we had a significant drop in the number of hatchlings come through Gumbo this year, only about 4,500 so far.”

The nature center’s nesting and hatchling release programs usually sell out. “We just didn’t have the opportunity to share that with the public this year,” he said.

By Marci Shatzman

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