A lesson on the island: Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch begins sea turtle nesting tours

acastillo@bradenton.comJune 19, 2014 

ANNA MARIA ISLAND -- Those interested in learning more about sea turtle nesting season are in luck.

Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring has begun organizing free sea turtle nesting tours on the island this week. During the one-hour long nesting tour, participants learn everything from how to identify the tracks of mother turtles who arrive on the beach to what a false crawl looks like.

AMITW director Suzi Fox said she's noticed more people becoming involved with sea turtle conservation.

"The tour is working as a part of their vacation -- they have a whole time set aside (for it)," she said Tuesday, adding that many will plan their whole day around the organization's tour. "That's what we're finding with people."

Glenn Wiseman, 61, gave the organization's first tour this past Tuesday alongside his wife, Claudia, 60.

"It went really well. We had a smaller group of about 15 people," the Holmes Beach resident said.

There were about six children in this past Tuesday's group. For Wiseman and his wife, both education directors of AMITW, it's crucial to get youth involved in the organization's mission to assure a suitable habitat for people, sea turtles, shore

birds and the ecosystem.

"We like to get the kids involved because they're the ones who will carry the torch after we're gone," the retired special education teacher said. "They're the next generation."

After placing a reservation with Claudia Wiseman via phone, tour participants meet with their guides at a specific location on Anna Maria Island at 7 a.m. Tours, which will run through July, generally take place on Tuesdays. Wiseman said they try to keep the number of participants under 20.

Once the group is together, they walk toward a sea turtle nest.

"We teach them about the entire process -- facts about the sea turtles and how often they nest," Wiseman said.

During Wiseman's 16 years as a tour leader, he said people are most surprised to learn that only one in 1,000 sea turtles will reach sexual maturity.

During a tour, some of the frequently asked questions from participants are: How many eggs are in a nest? Will mother turtles ever come back to the nests they made? What's the difference between a false crawl and a crawl that led to a nest?

"These tours are very important. People wait and organize their vacations around turtle season on this island ... they don't come here for partying," he said. "We hear it all the time."

Those interested in going on a nesting tour with the Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring (AMITW and SBM) can call Claudia Wiseman at 248-982-5600.

Amaris Castillo, Law Enforcement/Island Reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. You can follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.

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