Sea turtle hit, killed by car on Anna Maria Island

A nesting loggerhead sea turtle was struck and killed by a car on Anna Maria Island early Wednesday morning, according to officials.

According to the Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring organization (AMITWSBM), a female sea turtle was struck and killed in the middle of Gulf Drive right near the entrance of the Coquina North Boat Ramp on Anna Maria Island. The driver who hit the turtle kept going.

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"It's really upsetting to think that they didn't stop to try to get her help right away, especially because she was a sea turtle and she's an adult nesting turtle. It's a big loss," AMITWSBM's Executive Director Kristen Mazzarella said.

Photo courtesy: Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring

The crash comes at a time when loggerhead sea turtles are right in the middle of nesting season. As Mazzarella explained, this turtle had just laid a nest right before it was struck and was probably trying to get back to the water but got disoriented by the streetlights.

"Sea turtles use light as an orientation device," Mazzarella said. "It's a cue for them to tell them which way is the water. They're basically looking for the bright horizon over the water at night, and they want to go towards that and away from dark shadows."

The purpose of the two streetlights is to illuminate the crosswalk. Both have metal shields, which is meant to block the light from the sea turtles, but Mazzarella believes both of the current shields aren't effective enough in blocking the light.

Photo courtesy: Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring

"One of the things that you can do with streetlights or any lights is you can change them to a turtle-friendly bulb, which would be in the red or amber spectrum," Mazzarella said.

The lights are managed through a joint effort with FDOT, The City of Bradenton Beach, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Manatee County and Florida Power and Light. Mazzarella said she's been in touch with all parties about changing the bulb color or adding more protective shields.

She's hoping something can be worked out before the nest hatches in about two months.

"I think that it is possible for us to come up with a solution that is turtle friendly as well as work for public safety," Mazzarella said.

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