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Rare leatherback sea turtle nest found in Sarasota County

Leatherbacks rarely nest on the Gulf Coast of FL
Posted at 11:37 PM, May 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-09 23:37:14-04

SARASOTA, Fla.- Mote Marine Laboratory discovered two leatherback nests on local beaches.

The laboratory's Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program found one nest on Siesta Key and another nest on Venice Beach.

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Mote Marine has not discovered a leatherback nest on local beaches since 2001.

"Leatherbacks are very large turtles. They're much more inclined to be in deep waters so that's why we see them on the east coast of Florida and rarely on the Gulf Coast," said Stephannie Kettle with Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium.

The leatherback turtle left behind massive track marks in the sand.

"Leatherbacks nesting in this area is very, very rare. In the chunk of area that Mote monitors in the Sarasota County area, we've only had one other nests in the history of our program," Kettle said.

The leatherback sea turtle is the largest turtle in the world. Leatherbacks average six feet in length and a weight range of 500 to 1,500 pounds, according to FWC.

Bruno Falkenstein with Sea Turtle Trackers monitors nests in Pinellas County.

"Please leave your cell phone lights off. Please don’t take any flash pictures. If you scare her back into the water, she’s going to leave them in the water and they’re going to perish," said Bruno Falkenstein with Sea Turtle Trackers.

Falkenstein recommends people on the do not use any lights at night, properly dispose of trash and knock down sand castles.

"If you build a sandcastle or if you dig a hole for a child, remember a turtle is crawling and if it falls in the hole and hits the hole wrong, it's going to break its neck, please fill the holes," Falkenstein said.

Mote Marine hopes the eggs hatch and they can learn more about why these turtles laid eggs on local beaches.

"Our sea turtle patrol is monitoring the beach every single day so once we find a nest, we mark it off, we know where it is and part of your patrol is looking for new activity and hatching activity," Kettle said.