August 2019
Turtle Tracks Newsletter
August Board Meeting

Being as our volunteers are quite busy with turtle nests, hatchlings and stranding's, we will not be hosting our Monthly Board Only meeting this month.

See you in September when we return with our regular Monthly Membership Meeting.
Date TBA

Hatchlings Saved & Released

During a routine excavation, 2 live babies were found trapped in their nest. Had it not been for the work of our permitted volunteers, these 2 little ones we named Jen & Harry may not have survived.
Check out the video of their release!
Who Ya Gonna Call?
Photos of a dead juvenile green turtle recovered by one of our permitted SAT/STSSN volunteers. Cause of death could not be determined on site, or by X-Ray at the Turtle Hospital, so this beautiful turtle was turned over to the FWC for a necropsy.
Recently several of our SAT members attended a Sea Turtle Stranding & Salvage Network (STSSN) education session to renew their training where as, along with a group of 300+ volunteers throughout Florida, they are permitted to respond to dead or injured sea turtles. Members of the STSSN work together to inform the causes of sea turtle strandings by collecting data, documenting wounds and abnormalities, transporting sick and injured sea turtles to permitted rehabilitation facilities, and helping to educate the public about sea turtle conservation.

With the summer months we see a spike in visitors throughout coastal areas of Florida, including the Florida Keys, which means more eyes on the water. In the event you find a dead or injured sea turtle, this is what you should do:

Call the FWC 24-hour Wildlife Alert Number at 1-888-404-FWCC (1-888-404-3922).
You will be asked a few questions, please answer them as best as you are able. Expect to be asked:

  1. Exact location of the animal (GPS coordinates are helpful if you have an app on your phone or on your boat)
  2. Is the turtle alive or dead?
  3. Approximate size.
  4. Is the turtle marked with spray paint (the turtle may have florescent paint on the carapace (shell). Sometimes you’ll see an “X”. other times you may see only very faint flecks of paint remaining. Observe as best as you are able to be able to respond to this question.
  5.  What is the location of the closest access point to the turtle?

When you find a dead or injured sea turtle, calling him/her in will begin a chain of events to save the turtle (if still alive), or document the turtle (if deceased). Once you make the call to the Hotline, they will contact whomever is the local FWC personnel for the area the turtle is located. The local FWC personnel will then contact an STSSN permit holder in the area the turtle is near for a response. The local STSSN permit holder will also connect with the Turtle Hospital in Marathon if the turtle is alive to help arrange for a prompt medical response for the injured sea turtle.

If you find a living, but injured sea turtle, please be prepared to stay with the turtle until the help arrives. If you cannot stay with the turtle, please try and see if anyone else in the area can stay until the emergency aid arrives. This will give the best chance of survival for the animal. To learn more about the STSSN, click the link below.
Florida Keys Nesting Update: the Babies are here!
Nesting overall in the Fla Keys has been a bit slow this season while the mainland of Florida is having an "up" season. Depending on their species, sea turtles will lay 3-5 nests every 2-3 years, returning to the beach where they were born to do so. Following the pattern of our past seasons, this is a "down" season for the Keys.

But that's ok because the nests that are hatching are producing lots of baby turtles, mostly loggerheads up to this point. So far this season, our nests have yielded over 650 hatchlings! This number represents just a few nesting areas monitored by Save-A-Turtle and not the entire Keys.

During a permitted excavation, our volunteers dig up the nest 72 hours POST HATCH and collect data regarding the success rate of each nest. This includes how many eggs total, the number of hatched eggs, fertile, infertile and babies found dead or alive in the nest.
So what happens when we find live babies? Well, the babies are assessed and "water tested" to see if they are healthy enough to be released. A water test includes bringing them down to the ocean at dusk to see if they are strong enough to swim. We check to see that they repeatedly go under and pop back up to take a breath, and observe their flipper movement and swimming abilities. If they are doing all of this with ease, we watch them swim away. See video at the top of this newsletter for a recent release.

Baby turtles will swim for days without stopping if necessary, until they find a weed line in the gulf stream, where they will live for approximately the next 2 years, floating along, eating and growing. If they are not ready to go, or if they seem weak when they are retrieved from the nest, then they are taken to The Turtle Hospital in Marathon for some R&R and nutrition. Once fueled and strong, they will be released by hospital staff a few weeks later.

Meet Neptune & Poseidon

Neptune & Poseidon upon rescue
Neptune Today
Poseidon Today
Back in August of 2017, our Save-A-Turtle volunteers were performing a routine excavation when we rescued these loggerhead hatchlings that were trapped in their nest. They were both in need of a little R&R before being released, so following protocol, we brought them to the Turtle Hospital for just that.

Sadly, only 1 in 1000 baby turtles survive to adulthood. If they are not eaten by crabs, birds or fish, they may become victims of boat strikes, entanglements or pollution. Depending on the species, sea turtles do not reach maturity until 15-20 years old, and their odds of reaching that point in their lives is very small. With that said, the Turtle Hospital is permitted by the State of Florida to keep up to 2 hatchlings for their very special Head Start Program. At the time we brought in our 2 rescues, we had no idea they would be the lucky babies selected!

The Head Start Program raises the hatchlings until they are around 2 year old juvenile sea turtles. They are given the very best of care and attention, including scrub baths and a healthy plastic free diet. (Yes, plastic free as most of the sea turtles rescued have ingested plastics!) Once their carapace (shell) reaches about 45 cm in length, they will be released back to Mother Ocean, as their chances of survival are greatly increased! In the mean time, they serve a very important role as "Education Turtles" for community and school outreach events to teach the public about sea turtles.

Now, as Save-A-Turtle Nest Surveyors and members of the STSSN (see article above), we usually only get to observe turtles as hatchlings and as adults when we see them out on the water or get called for a stranding or salvage. It has been a true joy to actually get to see these babies growing!

Both Neptune and Poseidon are very healthy and are scheduled for release this summer. And with their release, 2 new hatchlings may get chosen to be the new Head Start Turtles for the next 2 years.

We thank the entire staff at the Turtle Hospital for all they do every single day and night to help rescue and rehabilitate so many sea turtles of all species. Flippers Up! If you are ever lucky enough to visit the Keys, be sure to include a visit to the Turtle Hospital.
Adopt a Baby Turtle....or 2 or 3.... Today!
Doppler, Our SAT Ambassador
See Doppler's Story
Your Adoption Certificate
Click video above to see SAT members rescue hatchlings trapped in a nest.
With hatching season upon us, why not show your support for our Save-A-Turtle volunteers by adopting a baby turtle! For as little as $15, you can name your turtle and you will receive a PDF certificate suitable for framing. 100% of all proceeds go directly to SAT to fund our efforts to protect and preserve our precious sea turtles here in the Florida Keys.
Report Sick, Injured or Dead Sea Turtles in Fla to FWCC at 888-404- FWCC