The leatherback sea turtle nesting activity has been picking up at Juno Beach! We finally got our hands on some leatherbacks after weeks of being skunked on survey nights. On Sunday night, our crew was able to fully sample our first nesting leatherback! We encountered her on the beach as she was digging her egg chamber and had to hurry to get our measurements and samples collected. She was on the smaller side, measuring only 154 cm (just over five feet) long. Since she had no tags, we gave her a sparkly new set and named her Ramona. She nested successfully and drew quite a crowd while on the beach. It’s early in the season so we’ll be watching for her return.
Last night we had another exciting leatherback encounter with Katabatik. Katabatik chose a particularly difficult section of beach to nest. We think she is the same turtle that false crawled earlier in the night after running into a three-foot scarp on the beach. Determined to nest on the second attempt, she struggled to get through soft sand that was collapsing under her as she crawled up an especially steep slope looking for firm sand to dig her egg chamber. It took her almost two hours to nest, much longer than average. Katabatik was first tagged in 2008 by the night time staff and was sampled that year by our very own project lead Dr. Justin Perrault as part of his PhD dataset. On Monday she measured 156 long, 6 cm longer than when Dr. Perrault first encountered her. As this was the first time he resampled a leatherback from that project, it was exiting for him to see this healthy leatherback nesting again. We’ll keep an eye out for this special girl’s return as the season continues!
Ramona returns to the water after nesting on 4/9/19.
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.