BRADENTON BEACH -- After laying between 100 and 150 eggs, a brief spa day and some "bling" added to her shell, Amie the loggerhead sea turtle made a quick crawl back into the Gulf of Mexico Tuesday morning.
The bling didn't come cheaply -- a satellite transmitter worth thousands was adhered to her back by Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and the Sea Turtle Conservancy. It will help scientists determine where turtles that lay their eggs on Anna Maria Island mate and migrate and other spots they might nest.
"We want to see where our turtles go, what they do, where they socialize, where they eat and if they like our sand," said Suzi Fox, director of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch. "If she comes back to nest in a couple of weeks, which is very possible, and several weeks beyond that even, we're going to see if she comes back to our beach and the timing for it. It's really important for us to know how healthy our beach is."
Amie, named for the Anna Maria Elementary School, was found as the two turtle protection groups pulled an all-nighter, scouring the beaches through storms for a loggerhead turtle who had finished nesting. Fox said they had called it a night around 4 a.m. when she spoke to Dave Ault, one of their volunteers.
"He was whispering into the phone, 'I got our girl,'" Fox said with a laugh.
They detained Amie and gave her a "spa day," scrubbing the barnacles off of her shell, which Fox said turtles like. Then they put the satellite transmitter on her and had to wait a while for the adhesive to dry, releasing her back into the Gulf at 8 a.m.
Lexie Beach, spokeswoman for the Gainesville-based Sea Turtle Conservancy, said Amie was the first turtle they have tracked from Anna Maria Island. The conservancy typically works with turtles on Florida's east coast, but a grant from the island trolley service enabled them to come west.
Deborah Wing, president of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, which runs the island's trolley service, said they started running advertisements on the side of the trolley so people could ride for free but they could still pay for drivers and repairs.
"The program was so successful, that we actually had excess money every year," Wing said. "So we give that excess money to island non- or not-for-profits. That way the money stays in the community."
They awarded $5,000 to the Anna Maria Island Sea Turtle Watch for the satellite transmitter. Wing said turtles and other wildlife are to thank for the island's beach renourishment, which allows residents to maintain the small island culture.
"They're one of the many reasons we get to appreciate the island's beauty," Wing said.
Beach said the satellite transmitter, which fall off on their own with no harm to the animal, typically last a year and a half. They'll track Amie's movements from Gainesville until it falls off.
To track Amie, go to www.conserveturtles.org/
Kate Irby, Herald online/political reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7055 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow her on Twitter @KateIrby