Two sea turtles trying to nest on Sarasota beaches became tangled in beach chairs left out overnight, neither one able to lay their eggs.
One of the turtles, which can grow to 300 pounds, dragged an entire chair into the depths of the Gulf and remains missing -- as does the chair.
"Anything that's left out on the beach is subject to a turtle running into it," says Melissa Bernhard, a staff biologist at the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium. "They're sort of one-track minded. They want to nest, so if a chair gets in the way they sort of just plow into it."
Unfortunately, turtle versus beach chair happens more often than people think. Enhancing the problem is turtles are both nesting and hatching right now. All that critter traffic is happening at a time when humans, both local and visiting, are storming the beaches.
Mote Marine educates its visitors on the nesting sea turtle basics:
- Don't leave trash strewn on the beach
- Fill in deep holes before you leave as they can be especially dangerous for babies trying to get to the Gulf.
- If you live on the beachfront, turn off outdoor lights at night that can disorient a mother laying eggs.
If you must leave beach furniture out overnight to save your spot for the next day, at least place the items at the dune line and pile them closely together.
"If there's sand, it's a potential nesting area," says Bernhard.