This year the Conservancy of Southwest Florida concluded its 38th season of loggerhead sea turtle nest monitoring on Keewaydin Island.
Since the program’s inception, Conservancy biologists have collected samples and data on nesting female sea turtles, while also protecting their nests from predation through their incubation period. Upon hatching, the team excavates each nest to determine its success. This year 421 loggerhead sea turtle nests were laid on Keewaydin Island.
From May through early August, female turtles return, often close to the beach where they hatched 20+ years ago, to lay their own eggs. Each individual will crawl up onto the beach, and determine the perfect place to deposit her eggs. Using their back flippers, they will dig a chamber in the sand, where eggs are then laid. Loggerhead sea turtle nests can contain more than100 eggs! While the females are laying their eggs, Conservancy biologists collect information on each individual — including but not limited to measurements, tissue samples, identification tag numbers and more. Before returning to the Gulf, the female turtles are fitted with PIT and flipper tags to help identify the turtles in the future, on Keewaydin or elsewhere in the world.
After the turtle makes her way back to the water, the Conservancy team will place a cage over the nest to protect the eggs from predators such as feral hogs, raccoons, coyotes, and many other creatures. Only 1 in 1,000 sea turtles are thought to survive to full adulthood, so each egg plays a crucial role for this species.
After approximately 60 days of incubation, the eggs will hatch and the little ones make their way to the Gulf. Three days after a nest has shown signs of hatching, the Conservancy team will excavate the egg chamber to determine the success of each nest. This includes counting things like the number of hatched and unhatched eggs.
In the 2020 season, 22,422 loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings assumed to have made their way to the Gulf of Mexico! To learn more about our sea turtle research, please visit our website https://www.conservancy.org/our-work/science/wildlife/loggerheads!