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Sea turtle nest excavation excites volunteers

August 8, 2012
By BOB PETCHER, , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

It was among just a handful of sea turtle nests of the 2012 season to be excavated on Fort Myers Beach and the first successful one since Tropical Storm Debby left a damaging mark on the beachfront of Estero Island roughly seven weeks ago.

Last Wednesday morning, Turtle Time founder Eve Haverfield and volunteers Debbie Travis and Mary Miehoff from the non-profit organization were elated to find 113 out of 119 eggs (a 95-percent rate) to be successfully hatched from a nest on a property at 5268 Estero Blvd. The excavation process involved Haverfield carefully digging up the nest area that had been vacated by the 113 hatchlings three days prior and removing the eggshells for documentation.

"How exciting it is to have a nest that survived Debby," she said. "This gives us encouragement and joy."

Article Photos

Turtle Time founder Eve Haverfield explains the excavation process to interested passers-by as volunteers Mary Meihoff and Debbie Travis listen in.

The full process began May 26-27 when a female loggerhead decided to nest at the location just north of Dakota Avenue access. A body pit was made by the displacement of sand, and then eggs were laid. Roughly 63 days later, the eggs hatched and hatchlings took three to five days to climb from the nest and emerge into the night's air.

"They wait until the ceiling of sand is cold. That's how they know it is night," said Haverfield.

The nest was built on rental property above a sea wall. Turtle Time volunteers not only staked the nest and another nest nearby, but they also built a sand ramp to help the little creatures reach the Gulf without a drop from the sea wall.

"We are very pleased with the compliance that Sun Palace Vacations demands from their rental guests," said Haverfield.

Turtle Time volunteers, who monitor each morning shortly after sunrise, are trained to notice when a nest has been vacated. Telltale signs include an 8-inch concave area at the nest location and little tracks that (hopefully) lead to the Gulf. Hatchlings are eager to be on the move when out of their shells.

"They have this energy for the first 24 hours," said Haverfield. "That's when they hit the Gulf and swim for their lives and use the Gulf Stream in hopes to reach the Sargasso Sea, where they use the Sargassum as cover from predators until they are mature."



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