NAPLES, Fla. – Florida Department of Environmental Protection staff, interns and volunteers at Rookery Bay Research Reserve recently completed their assessment of nesting efforts for the 2018 sea turtle nesting season and reported more than 10,000 loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings made their way out of their nests at the Cape Romano Complex, south of Marco Island. That is nearly twice the number of hatchlings as any prior year since monitoring and nest caging began at the complex in 2006.
“This was an amazing year for nesting,” Rookery Bay Research Reserve Director Keith Laakkonen said. “Even though there were 29 fewer nests this year than in 2016 – a banner year for sea turtles – we had very good results. We have increased hatching success by close to 100 percent since we started installing cages, which help prevent predation by raccoons or other animals.”
The total number of hatchlings to emerge from 146 nests this year was 10,752, with an estimated 74 percent emergence success. Since 2006, the highest number of hatchlings to emerge from nests at the Cape Romano Complex was 6,046 in 2014, which was a relatively quiet year for storm events.
"We have noticed that beachgoers along the Cape Romano Complex have done a great job of picking up after themselves," Rookery Bay Research Reserve Sea Turtle Nest Monitoring Coordinator Sarah Norris said. "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.”
Rookery Bay Research Reserve staff monitor sea turtle nests at the Cape Romano Complex in cooperation with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission and Collier County Parks & Recreation. The program also has support from the local community through the Friends of Rookery Bay, the citizen support organization for the reserve. Their Adopt-a-Sea-Turtle-Nest program provides funding for a summer intern, with the help of volunteers, to patrol beaches every morning, find nests and install cages. Once the eggs have hatched, the turtle team goes back to each nest to remove the cages, excavate the nests and count the empty shells to determine the actual number of hatchlings.
During nesting season, beachgoers should always remove beach furniture, fill in holes and smooth out sandcastles before leaving the beach to help prevent nesting females from encountering obstructions, and to ensure hatchlings successfully reach the water.