Turtle watch groups checking nests after Hermine

Kimberly Kuizon reports

- Wildlife protection groups are scrambling to document and track sea turtle nests damaged by Hurricane Hermine.

"Every single one is important to us," Suzi Fox said.

As director of the Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shore Bird Monitoring Program, she is keeping an eye on each and every turtle nests on the beaches. Even the ones you can't see.

"The waves were very very high," she said.

As the storm moved through the area last week, so did high tides, winds and rain. All that water washed away markers used to keep track of the nests, which are buried underground. Around 80 are still visible, but dozens aren't.

"We believe that we have somewhere between 80 and 142 that the eggs may still be on the beach," said Fox.

Fox said it is important now more than ever to follow proper sea turtle guidelines.

"Close your lights, turn out any unnecessary lights that are signing from your house. You can also put in turtle friendly bulbs," she said.

Some nests maybe buried under even more sand now, but the eggs could still hatch at any time.

"Even where people are walking, they need to be very cautious and watch for the signs that any hatchlings are coming out of the sand," said Fox.

At Mote Marine Laboratory researchers are still calculating how many nests may have been destroyed by the storm.

"The good news is most of the nests had already hatched before the storm came. And so, a lot of the stakes that were out on the beach were from old nests that had hatched that we were waiting to pull the stakes from," said biologist Melissa Bernhard.

This is set to be a record year for sea turtle hatchlings and those who work with the turtles want to make sure that number is preserved.

"We really need to step up and make sure these boys and girls get on out to see the way they should," said Fox.

If you see any sea turtle nests that have been disrupted, call Mote Marine Laboratory at 941-388-4331 or the Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shore Bird Monitoring Program at 941-778-5638.

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