Sea turtles carrying serious baggage; need your help

- Some beachgoers' source of tranquility is creating turtle turmoil in Sarasota. It's prime nesting season, and these turtles are getting caught up in folks' resting chairs.

"Almost daily we see them actually hitting chairs or tents, or something like that. It's not an uncommon problem," said Melissa Bernhard, a staff biologist at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota.

Within the last week, the tracks of two female loggerhead turtles have been found -- carrying beach chairs behind them.

"We encountered a loggerhead crawl that had two drag marks on either side of it that we determined was from a turtle had lodged herself under it, and then crawled back to the water," said Bernhard. "There was no evidence of the turtle or the chair behind, and so we were worried that she still has the chair on her back somewhere out in the ocean. It may have drowned her or she may have freed herself; we don't really know."

As for the other turtle, she was able to free herself from the chair.

It's a growing problem, because between Longboat and Venice, 3,500 nests have been accounted for. That's enough for a record year.

Turtles search for shady parts of the beach to nest, and that's why they're getting trapped under chairs left out after hours.

"They're instinctively looking for the darkest part of the beach to lay their nests," explained Bernhard. "So, if it's a shadow under a chair, that might draw them to it so that their hatchlings can see the contrast between the darkness and the brightness of the water."

Now biologists are asking for the public's help, so the turtles can go about their business when beachgoers leave for the day.

"Take their chairs off the beach once they're done for the day," said Bernhard. "Have as much fun during the day, but when they leave, to eliminate their footprint."

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