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2019 Leatherback Nesting Season: Week 4 Recap

Juno Beach and Jupiter are teeming with activity, which is keeping the night crew quite busy into the early morning hours. Week Four brought ten leatherback nesters onto the beach, bringing the total number of sampled mothers to 32!!

A leatherback using her massive front flippers to spray sand over her clutch in order to disguise her eggs from predators. (Photo Credit: Kate Fraser)

Some turtles of interest in include a pair mothers who were first tagged back in 2003, a full 16 seasons ago! Windy, a 155.6 cm (5.1 ft) CCL, or curved carapace length, and June Bug, a 151.5 cm (~5 ft) CCL female, were both spotted by Night Time Techs Kate Fraser and Derek Aoki. Windy received the works, as blood and a skin sample were acquired along with measurements of her length, width, neck, and crawl width. June Bug was discovered while she was already covering her eggs, therefore a blood sample was not attempted because she was moving too much to safely attempt a blood draw. However, skin and measurements were safely acquired.

Night Tagging Intern Madisen Liebl takes a skin sample from a nesting female. (Photo Credit: Derek Aoki)
The location of where a skin sample is taken from a leatherback. A small circular sample is collected from one of her rear flippers (Photo Credit: Derek Aoki)

Week Four also saw two return nesters who were spotted for the second time this season! Kailani and Buttercup were both seen earlier this month, and they both climbed back onto shore to lay their second (or third) clutches of the season. On average, a leatherback has a nesting interval of nine to ten days and will typically lay five to seven times per season! So don’t be surprised if Kailani and Buttercup are spotted a few more times on Juno Beach!

Finally, mama Angie holds a significant meaning to Campus Operations Manager Brian Robertson because she was the first leatherback he has ever seen!! After all the hard work Brian and the Operations team do to ensure the smooth running of LMC, it was amazing that he was finally able to see a giant leatherback in person.

LMC Data Manager Sarah Hirsch collects a blood sample from Week 4 turtle Angie while Madisen assists in stabilizing her flipper and Campus Operations Manager Brian Robertson observes his first ever leatherback. (Photo Credit: Derek Aoki)

Thats a wrap on Week 4, and check back in next week for more updates as the nesting season picks up!!

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-19-205.