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The 2019 leatherback season is here!

A new leatherback season is upon us and there has been no shortage of activity on Juno Beach.  Nightly beach patrols have been underway since April 1, and we were lucky enough to see some turtles that very night! Our first encounter of the season was Shirleen, who was first tagged a few years ago in 2017.  Since March 1t, the official beginning of the leatherback nesting season, we have 22 nests spread across 15.24 km (9.47 miles) of beaches patrolled by LMC.

From left to right, volunteer/vet tech Nicole Montgomery, intern Madisen Liebl, and Research Director Dr. Justin Perrault watch as Kristen lays her eggs (Photo Credit: Derek Aoki)

The night crew encountered nine turtles during the first week of surveys and three of the girls were new nesters: Tricia, Panda, and Boucha.  The largest lady of the bunch was a returning nester named Fortuna. She has a carapace length of 164.2 cm (5.4 feet) and was first seen in 2012.  A fun fact about Fortuna: she was the 500th leatherback encountered by LMC!! The smallest turtle we saw this week was Tricia, coming in at 146.0 cm (4.8 feet).  Though as a first time nester, she is destined to grow over the years to come.

New nester Tricia as she lays her clutch of eggs (Photo Credit: Derek Aoki)
Director of Research Dr. Justin Perrault takes a blood sample from a nesting turtle. (Photo Credit: Derek Aoki)

Another fascinating remigrant is Juno, who was originally tagged 18 years ago in 2001!  Although she had some wear and tear on her carapace, she knew exactly how to be an efficient nester.  She emerged from the water, went straight up the beach to her preferred nesting spot, laid her eggs, and was back in the ocean before you knew it.  Some of the other remigrant turtles were Kristin (tagged in 2011), Lillian (tagged in 2014) and Kailani (tagged earlier in 2019).

Be sure to check back every week throughout the nesting season for updates and fun facts about our work with these amazing turtles!

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.