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Alligator Point sees record low sea turtle nests this season

Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 7:55 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Little flippers are waiting to emerge from the sand as sea turtle nesting season continues along the Forgotten Coast but nesting season is off to a slow start.

In fact, Alligator Point is on track for the slowest season on record. Every summer, sea turtles who originally hatched on Alligator Point return to make nests of their own. But, they don’t always receive a warm homecoming.

From May 1 to Oct. 31, Loggerhead, Green and Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle mothers swim to the Florida Panhandle, crawl onto the beach and carefully nest in the white sands. But, these past few months, turtles along the Forgotten Coast swam into trouble.

Three sea turtles along Alligator Point Beach have been found dead. Two Loggerheads were hit by boats.

“When you consider those two females that we lost back in May, that could have been up to twelve nests that we lost when losing those turtles,” Director of the Alligator Point Sea Turtle Patrol Michelle Darpel explained.

A fishing line strangled one Kemp’s Ridley turtle.

“He was diving and actually saw the turtle entangled in some abandoned fishing gear,” described Daroek, “Kept diving down, was able to cut the line away from the turtle’s neck. Unfortunately, the turtle had already drowned and was diseased.”

Sea turtle nest numbers have been down all along the Gulf Coast, and Northern Florida is no exception.

“This year, we’re unfortunately setting a record for the worst season in recorded history for Alligator Point Sea Turtle Patrol. We only have four confirmed nests or marked nests, and we’ve had two false crawls,” Darpel said.

But, researchers at FSU say fluctuations in nesting activity is common and it’s more important to look at the trend over multiple years rather than data from just one season.

“The nest numbers this year are low, but on average the last ten years, the nest numbers have been increasing, from what FWC has been showing us. So that’s really a reflection of the effective conservation measures that have been put in place over the last several decades.” Dr. Matthew Ware, a Florida State University Marine Turtle Research, Ecology, and Conservation researcher, stated.

This green sea turtle nest, a rarity on Alligator Point, was marked by the turtle patrol on July 3.

“It was amazing,” said patroller with the Alligator Point Sea Turtle Patrol Elly Piper. “I mean to know this magnificent animal was out there only hours earlier, entrusted her eggs to this part of the beach where we live and then went on was a pretty special feeling and when we came out there the tracks were still there you could really see where she had been.”

Volunteers are making a monumental impact for majestic sea life along the forgotten coast. Alligator Point Sea Turtle Patrol asks all visitors to clean up after themselves, pick up tents and canopies, knockdown sandcastles, fill in holes and keep the beach dark.

For more information on Ware’s work, click here. If you find a hurt or dead sea turtle at Alligator Point, contact the Alligator Point Sea Turtle Patrol at 859-797-8332.

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