SARASOTA COUNTY (WFLA) – Sea turtle nesting season started in May. So far this year, Mote Marine Lab has documented more than 2,100 nests along 35 miles of the Suncoast – and 320 of those nests are on Siesta Key.
Local have been expressing concerns about the turtles, their hatchlings and their nests. Two times within a 5-day span, vehicles have made it onto the sand overnight. Tire tracks on the beach, in some cases, were only feet away from nests.
“You hope that people weren’t acting up, but then you see some of the patterns you can tell that they were out being crazy and doing donuts,” said Lee Jennings.
Jennings works on Siesta Key and manages properties in the area nearby where incidents happened on the north end of Beach Road. He says the blatant lack of care for wildlife is frustrating and fears it is only a matter of time before a tragedy happens.
“It’s very disheartening,” said Jennings. “It is the lack of care that bothers you.”
Sarasota County deputies are aware of both incidents happening in the last week. Officials with the sheriff’s office tell 8 On Your Side they’re increasing proactive patrols in the area. The focus will be on the problem areas where vehicles may have access to the beach.
“We also want to remind citizens that private vehicles are not allowed on the sand and should remain on roadways and within designated parking areas,” a sheriff’s office spokesperson said.
Officials with Mote Marine Lab want to remind the public that sea turtles and their nests are protected under state and federal laws. They’re asking beachgoers to leave the beach as natural as possible and stay away with lights once the sun goes down.
“Fill in your holes, knock down your sandcastles, bring in your trash, turn your lights off at night and that is the best chance you can give sea turtles,” said Stephannie Kettle with Mote.
Kettle says the main issue during nesting season on Siesta Key continues to be artificial lighting.
“Artificial lighting can cause sea turtles to do what is called a disorientation which means they go away from the water. A vehicle on the beach is going to be a big source of light. Lights from houses nearby are also a big source of light, so we just want people to make sure they are following all of the ordinances in place about lighting,” she explained. “Turn your lights off at night, use red lighting if you need to, stay off the beach with lights – even light from your cell phone could cause a disorientation for a sea turtle.”