July 2019
Turtle Tracks Newsletter
Monthly Membership Meeting
Monday, July 1st 6:30 pm
The Turtle Hospital in Marathon
Whale Sharks of Mexico
Presented by SAT VP Sherri Crilly
Sherri just returned from Isla Mujeres, just off the coast of Mexico, where she went swimming with Whale Sharks. Her presentation will include some great video footage, still photos and information about these majestic animals. If you are curious about these gentle giants, or have thought about experiencing this yourself, be sure to attend!
Save-A-Turtle & Islamorada FD Rescue Loggerhead
During the morning of May 21, 2019, an adult female loggerhead who was attempting to nest was discovered in distress on Sea Oats Beach. She had come ashore to nest, but the area she was in is highly eroded and unsuitable for nesting due to Hurricane Irma. She flippered into a temporary plastic fence which has been placed to keep nesting turtles off of US Highway 1, then went up the berm. It likely was higher than she expected, and she tumbled over landing on her carapace. She would have drowned quickly as the tide was already coming in and her head was in the water. The turtle had come ashore after the beach had already been surveyed for the morning by Save-A-Turtle’s beach walker Sandi Wiliams. A good Samaritan called the Turtle Hospital.
When Sandi got to the turtle, she thought she may have already perished. But as soon as she approached, "the turtle began moving her flippers like crazy", said Sandi. The turtle was too heavy for her to turn over herself (apprx 250-300 pounds) so Sandi called Islamorada Fire Rescue who responded immediately and rendered assistance (photo above left). They held the turtle until Sue Schaf with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Marine Turtle Program could respond to get a full checkup. The loggerhead was active with no apparent injuries, so she was tagged and released on site. Due to the stress, she released about 60 of her eggs in a rocky area, (photo above right) over half of which were able to be collected and buried in a suitable sandy area by Schaf and Williams. 
Florida Keys Nesting Update: the Babies are Coming!
Green Turtle Crawl in the Florida Keys. While we get lots of loggerhead nests and false crawls in the keys, Green sea turtles are more uncommon, so when one chooses our beach to nest, we get super excited!
This video shows a false crawl from a green turtle that recently came up. She covered lots of beach area during her crawl, returning to the water, then back up onto the beach again. During her crawl, she "pitted" a few times. However, for some reason she did not deposit her precious cargo. We are hoping she will return again in a few days and entrust her nest to our care.
Have you ever seen a sea turtle nest hatch? If not, don't feel bad. Most hatchings occur in the evening, often when its pouring! The video above shows a web cam that actually captured this amazing event a few years ago. If you are ever lucky enough to witness baby turtles hatching, PLEASE do not touch or disturb the babies. Keep your distance and ABSOLUTELY NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY!

The first hatchlings arrived here in the Florida Keys earlier this month. Click HERE to see our newest little baby at the Turtle Hospital in Marathon.
Leatherback Turtle Encounter
Leatherback Turtle: A Fish out of Water
By Beth Erickson, Save-A-Turtle Permitted Turtle Nest Surveyor in the Keys

Back on a beautiful fall day in Connecticut I went out fishing on Long Island Sound. My spot was halfway between Connecticut and New York, about 13miles out. As I headed in I saw something large floating in the distance. As I got closer I realized it was a huge turtle, a huge Leatherback. Heartbreaking though as it was dead. I have never seen a leatherback turtle in those waters after a lifetime of being on the water there. I knew I should report it so I took photos and contacted Mystic Aquarium. They wanted the photos and explained that it was not common to have a leatherback turtle that far into Long Island sound. This turtle had no visible signs of trauma. I was told it more than likely it died from ingesting a plastic bag as they look just like their primary food source, a jelly fish. Plastic bags, once ingested, cannot be digested or passed by an animal so it stays in the gut, ultimately killing them. How tragic. 
This turtle eventually floated onto a beach in Connecticut and made the news as a “massive turtle washed up on shore”. Then it was off to a museum to eventually educate others as a display. I was still heartbroken for this beautiful creature which made me want to learn more.

The leatherback turtle is the most ancient species of living sea turtle, as well as the largest and heaviest living turtle in the world.They can reach lengths of 8 feet, weigh up to 1500 pounds. It is the fourth-heaviest modern reptile behind three crocodilians. It can easily be differentiated from other modern sea turtles by its lack of a bony shell, instead its carapace is covered by skin and oily flesh. It is so mysterious that scientists still do not know how old they get or even their age of sexual maturity. Some estimate they can live hundreds of years. What a magnificent creature.

I believe I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to even see this turtle although it was the worst situation possible. It was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.......I thought......

About one year later I went lobstering with friends in the Florida Keys. We were scuba diving in about 15-20 feet of water over on the Gulf side near the Content Keys. I was down near a big coral head with two other people. At one point I was a couple feet over from one friend. Our yellow mesh catch bag was near me, below me. I then got bumped kind of hard on my right side. I thought it was the other diver I was with. I turned thinking he needed something. I realized I wasn’t bumped by a person but a leatherback turtle! I almost had a heart attack. Oh my, I couldn’t believe it! It was so big it was unreal, even having large remoras swimming and attached to it. I was face to face with a leatherback turtle. I was thrilled but I instantly realized what she was doing. She was trying to get the lobster bag near me. I had flashbacks of the Connecticut leatherback floating in the water probably from eating a plastic bag. No way was this girl getting this lobster bag. I grabbed the bag as she went for it again. I put my hand out and touched her back to give her a gentle push away. (As if I could push this 1000lb turtle away). As my hand touched her leathery skin on her back on the side she gently yet so quickly and efficiently turned rolling slightly from my touch....giving me enough time to pull the bag up close to me. She was so in her element. I realized very quickly this is her home, I was the fish out of water. A minute later I watched her go up to the surface and then come back. I was enjoying every second of this. Forget lobsters, forget everything. A full grown mature magnificent leatherback turtle foraging near me. I couldn’t be happier. She hung out for a few minutes foraging around the coral and then she swam off with her entourage of followers.
When we came up to the surface everyone on the boats were freaking out asking if we saw the huge turtle. They couldn’t get over her size- just the size of her head alone. The two men I was with said they stayed close to the bottom when they saw the turtle because they were afraid of it because if it’s size alone. They told everyone how I pushed it away from grabbing the lobsters in the bag. They didn’t understand I wasn’t protecting the lobsters in a bag. I was protecting a turtle from eating a bag. 

NOTE: Photo to the right above is a rare leatherback hatchling found by FWC permitted ranger in the Florida Keys. It is illegal to handle or disturb sea turtles and hatchlings. The hatchling was immediately released by the ranger.
Click the link below to learn more about leatherbacks in Florida.
Cleanups Take Place on Sea Turtle Nesting Beaches
On Saturday, June 15, 2019, volunteers from Save-A-Turtle participated in a beach cleanup of turtle nesting habitat in the lower Keys. The newly formed youth group called TheirPlanet coordinated this cleanup. TheirPlanet is a youth run organization promoting cleaning up beaches of the Florida Keys and making the environment a better place. We appreciate the initiative especially of Kassie Melton who is spearheading this new group, way to go Kassie! Follow the efforts of these teens on FB.

On May 24th we had the privilege of meeting Jana and her daughter Journey from Minnesota who volunteered some of their vacation time to help Save-A-Turtle! The ladies walked with our permitted volunteer Tammie to learn about sea turtles and nesting and were lucky enough to come across a false crawl here In the Lower Keys. Afterwards, they helped us tackle a clean up on a small section of our beach that was loaded with trash. Thank you for joining us and for your help!
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