Tropical Storm Emily destroys sea turtle nests in Sarasota County

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SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) — In Sarasota County, Tropical Storm Emily claimed some tiny victims in its wake – baby sea turtles. Some nests were washed away from Lido Beach and in some cases, beachgoers saw eggs popping out of the sand.

Early Monday morning, Tropical Storm Emily seemed to strike out of nowhere.

“All morning we could see the waves tearing up the beach,” said Lido Beach resident Jay Elsasser.

The weather had Elsasser worried. As soon as the weather cleared, he ran out to Lido beach and sadly saw destroyed nests and eggs exposed on the sand.

“They look like little ping pong balls,” he described. 

A number of nests were completely washed over, eggs were exposed in the open – and stakes were strewn across the sand.

“This beach was littered with eggs. Ones that had been picked open and ones that were still whole,” Elsasser recalled.

On Tuesday, Mote Marine officials responded to numerous reports of damaged nests and stranded baby turtles. In fact, they found dozens of baby sea turtles in a nearby swimming pool.

“We just never know what kind of damage it’s going to do,” explained Kristen Mazzarella with Mote Marine Lab.

It’s important to quickly respond to damaged nests.

“Having them exposed exposes them to predators. It also exposes them to drying out and so we try to cover up those nests,” she said.

And officials have a stern warning for beachgoers.

“We don’t want people collecting eggs. Once they’re out of the nest, they’re rolling around, the embryo detaches from its food source, so it’s not gonna survive,” said Mazzarella.

Elsasser is hopeful that some proposed beach renourishment projects could prevent tragedies like this.

“It’s heartbreaking because you know all the effort the turtles go through,” he said.

Mote Marine officials are still working to find out how many nests were damaged and destroyed yesterday.

They emphasize if you see a damaged nest, don’t touch it. Call wildlife officials and they’ll either come out or tell you what to do.

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