Take sea turtle hatchlings wandering inland to Mote Marine Laboratory

August 25, 2013 

Sarasota officer Derek Conley was on patrol at 1 a.m. Agu. 3 when he saw sea turtle hatchlings crawling toward the front door of the Lido Beach Resort. He scooped up about 100 and released them into the Gulf of Mexico. PHOTO PROVIDED

Recently this fine paper reported on a police officer who found some sea turtle hatchlings in a parking lot and released them in the surf. Good for him! His heart was in the right place.

However ...

Sea turtles hatch in the wee hours. Under the cover of darkness, they go into a "swimming frenzy," which may last up to 48 hours. The lucky few who escape the gauntlet of predators make it to the weedline, where they hide, rest, feed and grow.

If they get disoriented and head inland they waste valuable energy. They're much better swimmers than crawlers. Moreover, if released in the daylight, they lose a significant advantage.

A better plan if you find a baby inland is to get it to Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota. They have excellent facilities and staff for sea turtle rehab. The cute little babies are rested and given medical attention if needed.

If hatchlings are still strong they will be released on the beach that night. If the babies need further medical attention, they get it. Once they are healthy and can swim and eat, they're taken to the weedline and released, vastly increasing their likelihood of having future grandchildren.

This is in no way a criticism of the officer involved. Hats off to him. I'm sure the police manual is silent on the nuances of baby sea turtle rescue.

Bruce Allen Wallis


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