Turtle Hatch Breaks Records at Rookery Bay
Photos courtesy of the Rookery Bay Reserve.
At Florida’s Rookery Bay Reserve, the numbers for 2018 are in—more than 10,000 loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings have made their way out of their nests at Cape Romano. That’s nearly twice the number for any year since the Reserve, which is part of Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection, began its turtle monitoring program in 2006.
“This was an amazing year for nesting,” says Reserve Director Keith Laakkonen. “We have increased hatching success by close to 100 percent since we started installing cages, which help prevent predation by raccoons or other animals.”
Like so many success stories around our Reserve System, this year’s record breaking hatch came about through hard work and partnership. The turtle monitoring program is a collaboration of Reserve staff and volunteers, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Collier County Natural Resources, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, and the Friends of Rookery Bay, which organizes an Adopt-a-Sea-Turtle-Nest program that provides funding for a summer intern.
During nesting season, the turtle monitoring team patrols the beaches of Cape Romano and local islands five days a week to locate nests and place cages over them. Once the eggs have hatched, the team goes back to remove the cages, excavate the nests, and count the empty shells to determine the number of hatchlings. During nesting season, the team cautions local beachgoers to remove beach furniture, fill in holes, and smooth out sandcastles before leaving the beach.
“We have noticed that beachgoers along the Cape Romano Complex have done a great job of picking up after themselves,” says Sarah Norris, the Reserve’s monitoring coordinator. “Anything we can do to prevent predation and obstacles on the beach can help ensure nesting females and hatchlings make their way to the water safely and efficiently.”
—Thanks to Renee Wilson for contributing this story.