It’s no surprise that beachfront hotels and sea turtle hatching season aren’t a match made in heaven.
But no one expected two nests to hatch within an hour of each other, causing many sea turtles to head in the wrong direction on Monday, August 5, right outside the Schooner Hotel on Madeira Beach.
Wildlife photographer, “Doc Jon,” who volunteers with Birds in Helping Hands, a wildlife rescue organization based in Seminole, was witness to the rare event. Jon, along with a crowd of beachgoers and onlookers, lead at least 100 turtles to the safety of the sea.
“It was extremely unusual,” Jon said. “Sea turtle season is part of the reason – and this season there has been a high amount of nests, which is great.”
However, hundreds of infant turtles flooding the hotel parking lot was not so great. After alerting the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC), the team got to work moving the tiny creatures from the parking lot to the beach.
According to Jon, the crowd saved about a hundred turtles from wandering toward the lights from the street.
“I ran down there and had to stop everybody. One guy was kicking the turtles back down the beach, and people were screaming.” Jon said. “I had everyone get in a line and only move the turtles that were going the wrong way. It’s illegal to pick up a sea turtle, unless it’s in danger.”
According to the FWC website, sea turtles found wandering toward the wrong direction on the beach should be moved to a dark portion of the shore and left to walk into the surf on their own.
If the animals do not make it into the sea on their own, then they can be coaxed into the water. However, in all situations that sea turtles are involved, the FWC should be notified via phone.
For more information on sea turtle hatching season and wildlife, visit myfwc.com.