The Good, the Bad, and the Magical

I’m sorry it has been a while, but it has been a busy few weeks!

Like anything in life, we take the good with the bad here at Mote and that means that we have stayed busy in the stranding department!  Hatching season is in full force, which means that a lot of adorable baby turtles are flopping to the ocean.  Lights on the beach often confuse the youngsters, however, so they become disoriented and wind up in someone’s laundry room or a pavilion at a park, resulting in a lot of worried turtle lovers who call us.

One of our patients here at the lab.

The normal protocol for these little guys is to keep them at Mote for the day (stored in hatchling boxes – like a makeshift nest) until evening when the turtle patrol workers release them into the ocean.  Turtle patrol is important during nesting season, marking off every nest on the beach the morning after it’s laid, tracking nesting times, tracking hatchings, and digging up nests four days after the first hatch to make sure all the hatchlings have gotten out.  I have been lucky enough to watch a re-release and am still hoping to find a nest that’s actively hatching.  I also have gotten to see quite a few adorable babies – including one that we saved from a canal!

Of important note:  If you vacation or live on the coast where nesting happens, please keep your outdoor lights off! This helps prevent hatchling disorientation, as well as increasing the likelihood that adult females will nest on your beach!

We have also had a few calls about adult turtles that have died naturally and washed ashore.  Often by the time they get to shore, it’s difficult to tell what happened due to the level of decomposition, but sometimes we find clues.  Of late, we had a large male loggerhead stranded on a local beach and still alive.  Usually animals that beach themselves do so because they are sick and that was the case with this big boy, who died before we could get there.  A full necropsy was done but the results are still out.

Remember that I said the good comes with the bad around here?  Now the good:

In the last few weeks, we have released two rehabilitated turtles back into the wild!  Zora, a juvenile green turtle was rehabbed at Mote after being found floating in shallow waters with fibropapilloma, a viral disease common in green turtles that causes large, cauliflower-like tumors to grow internally and externally.  There is still a lot to be learned about this disease and no known cure, but in Zora’s case the tumors could be removed and she cleaned up nicely!

Snapper, a loggerhead turtle rehabbed from the oil spill, was also recently released.  Other than that, we are happy to say that, while not affected by the oil locally, we took in 11 Kemp’s Ridley turtles (the world’s smallest and rarest sea turtle and an endangered species) rescued from oily waters near Louisiana.  The turtles came from the Audubon Nature Institute in New Orleans, where they received initial treatment.  As of today, five of them have been released and the others should be released soon!

I also recently went out with the manatee research team for a day. We worked in conjunction with an aerial survey plane looking for manatees from the air.  When we found the animals, we took a photo and drew documentation to visually ID the animals.  The team also gets genetic samples from skin to help see the diversity of the population.  I am learning a lot and getting to do a lot of different things!

I’m still having fun too.  Recently, my sister and brother in-law came to visit and we had a blast exploring Sarasota/Venice, finding shark teeth, and (of course) going to DISNEYWORLD!  We explored the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, where I recommend the Butterbeer!  They did an awesome job of creating authentic storefronts, a castle, and the characters.  The tour through the castle ride was one of the best I have been on.   (Also, I recommend going to Ollivander’s to get your wand made – while only one in 30 get to actually do the wand experience, you’re reading the blog of that one!  One wand of oak with a dragon’s heart string, please!)

As you can tell, Florida is great and (luckily) hurricane season has been relatively calm so far – knock on wood!

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