We had another hat trick of turtles on Juno Beach last night! It sure was an exciting night for our Leatherback Crew.
The first leatherback our team encountered last night was Pumpkin. Pumpkin was first tagged on Juno Beach in 2010 by LMC researchers. She was seen nesting twice in 2010 and six times in 2013. Next to nest last night was a new nesting female — this turtle did not have any tags, so our researchers gave her brand new tags (flipper tags and a microchip). The turtle was named “Mila.”
The final nesting female of the night was Savannah; this turtle’s track looked different than the ones our researchers have seen so far this year. Upon closer inspection of the turtle’s flippers, we found that Savannah was missing one of her rear flippers. Our researchers carefully helped Savannah dig her egg chamber without disturbing her natural nesting behavior and Savannah successfully laid her nest! Nesting females that are missing whole flippers often “go through the motions” of nesting even without a flipper (or sometimes two!). When a permitted researcher is present at the time of nesting and careful not to disturb the natural behavior of the turtle, he/she can assist the turtle dig an egg chamber or camouflage the nest. Savannah’s history revealed that her flipper had been missing since LMC researchers first encountered her in 2007, but this didn’t stop her from nesting again in 2009 and 2012!
All of this work by LMC is conducted under a Marine Turtle Permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Only trained researchers are permitted to approach a nesting sea turtle. Approaching a nesting sea turtle without a permit from FWC is illegal.