Sarasota officer saves almost 100 sea turtle hatchlings - WFLA News Channel 8

Police officer saves nearly 100 sea turtle hatchlings

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SARASOTA COUNTY, FL -

A Sarasota Police Officer made an unexpected waterside rescue this past weekend: He helped save nearly 100 sea turtle hatchlings.

It started overnight Saturday on Lido Key as officer Derek Conley stopped at the Lido Beach Resort on Ben Franklin Drive.

"I was leaving as this other gentleman was coming in and I spotted some turtles outside and he said 'hey, there's turtles outside," Conley said. "I looked outside and there was a bunch of them coming in. They were coming to the hotel...into the front doors. We assumed maybe due to the lights."

He was right.

Kristen Mazzarella, Program Manager of the Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program at Mote Marine Aquarium says if a light is shining on the beach, hatchlings can see it when they hatch out of their nests and get confused.

"Instead of going to the water, they see a bright light over there instead of the horizon and they go towards it," Mazzarella said. "Usually there's about 100 to 120 hatchlings in a nest so therefore the entire nest disoriented. If one sees the light - it's likely all of them have."

It seems that's what happened in this case. Officer Conley guesses there were about 100 hatchlings headed in different directions. Some were headed for the doors of the resort. Others were lost in the parking lot. More had wondered out into the road.

Officer Conley had to stop traffic a couple times as he, two security guards from the resort, and a couple guests from North Carolina put the hatchlings in a box and guided them back to the beach. In all, they invested about an hour and a half to do it all.

"There's a moment of indecision," he said. "Anybody who's been here for any length of time knows that they're federally protected so you're not really expecting to see anything like this at the time and you don't necessarily know what to do. Common sense kicked in for all of us."

Conley also reached out to Turtle Watch and Mote Marine.

Mazzarella said if, and only if, hatchlings are in danger you should carefully put them in a bucket with damp sand and call a turtle expert immediately. She says beach visitors can also be respectful during this season by knocking down sand castles and filling in holes so the turtles can make their way to the water.

"Leave it the way you found it," she said.

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