Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Alligator Point Sea Turtles

Alligator Point Sea Turtles by Bill Wargo The Gulf of Mexico sea turtle season begins on May 1 and ends October 31. Of the 7 sea turtle species in the world, Florida gets 5 of them -- loggerheads, green sea turtles, leatherbacks, Kemps Ridleys, and hawksbills. All are threatened or endangered, the Kemps Ridley being the rarest and most endangered in the world. The loggerhead is by far the most common turtle found on Alligator Point. Sea turtles have been an important part of our ecosystem for over 100 million years and we are very privileged to be in an area where they choose to nest. The Alligator Point Sea Turtle Patrol (APSTP) is directed by Bill Wargo under Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) marine turtle permit #151. Several trained and dedicated volunteers are also listed on the permit and can be seen every morning at dawn patrolling for nests and at other times when the hatchlings emerge or when rescuing or releasing stranded turtles. Educating the public is another important function of APSTP whether at a nest site or participating in presentations, exhibits, or media events. The FWC marine turtle program is one of the best and most successful wildlife conservation operations in both the nation and world. As part of that program APSTP has the responsibility of monitoring, protecting, marking, and reporting all sea turtle nesting and related activities. All sea turtles are protected by Federal and State laws. Only trained and permitted individuals can legally touch nesting sea turtles, hatchlings, or their nests. The average number of nests on Alligator Point is around 25 per season. Approximately 90-120 hatchlings emerge from a single nest after an incubation period of 60-65 days. It is important to allow hatchlings to crawl to sea on their own as that is how they map into their instinctive memories the characteristics of the beach enabling them to return to it 30 years later to nest. Hatchlings encounter many dangers from predators such as raccoons, ghost crabs, coyotes, birds, and sharks. It is commonly believed by biologists that only one in a thousand hatchlings will survive those dangers. Dangers from humans also exist through artificial lighting that disorients both hatchlings and nesting turtles, vehicles driven on the beach, induced erosion from seawalls and revetments that destroy nesting grounds, furniture, trash, and other obstacles left on the beach as well as discarded fishing lines, nets, and traps. Boat strikes also severely injure or kill sea turtles. Visitors are welcome to Alligator Point and APSTP hopes that you enjoy our beautiful beaches. During your stay please help us protect our sea turtles, other wildlife, and their habitats. Please remember a few simple things to protect these magnificent creatures and their habitats: 1. Keep the beach dark. Do not use flashlights unless covered with a red filter. 2. Turn off all outside lights from 9pm to 7am. 3. Close drapes/blinds of windows that can be seen from the beach 4. No bonfires on the beach. 5. No vehicles on the beach. 6. Remind neighbors to turn off their outside lights. 7. Do not use flash if taking pictures. 8. Do not allow pets, children, or anyone else to disturb turtles or their nests. 9. Please remove furniture, umbrellas, and other obstacles from the beach at night. 10. Pick up trash and debris that you see along the beaches, and be sure not to leave your own trash behind. 11. Give nesting sea turtles plenty of space and observe them from a distance. 12. Take care not to step on hatchlings heading to the water and let them crawl down the beach on their own. 13. While boating, take care not to strike sea turtles. 14. Report any stranded, injured, or dead sea turtles to APSTP at (850) 567-5369. You can follow APSTP at: https://www.facebook.com/AlligatorPointSeaTurtlePatrol are