We have been waiting patiently for our first leatherback encounter of the season, and it finally happened on April Fool’s Day at around 11:30 pm. After two weeks of patrolling with no turtles, we encountered “Mounds” who was originally tagged in June of 2011. She has not been seen on our beaches since, but it is highly likely that she nested some time in between now and then. This turtle’s shell was 149 cm (~59 inches) long and 101 cm (40 inches) wide, putting her on the smaller side as far as leatherbacks go. We are unsure as to why her name is Mounds, but we would like to think it is due to her nest building behavior. Upon completion of her nest, there were several mounds of sand scattered across the beach (see picture below). Additionally, this turtle was unique in that she covered the egg chamber with both of her rear flippers; most leatherbacks use just one flipper to cover the chamber while laying their nest. Her rear flippers also were quite shaky during the digging process. Perhaps she has some anatomical deformity with her pelvis and/or hind limbs.

Below is a photo of Mounds.

Another leatherback nested near Seminole Golf Club while we were working up Mounds. Hopefully, this means we will have some ladies more regularly now that the season is one month underway.

More to come…

Disclaimer: All marine turtle images taken in Florida were obtained with the approval of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) under conditions not harmful to this or other turtles. Images were acquired while conducting authorized research activities pursuant to FWC MTP-17-211.