Hatchling Release – By Tommy Cutt

loggerheadhatchling This past Friday, July 30th, we released 110 Loggerhead Sea Turtle hatchlings in the sargassum weed line offshore. Friday was a perfect day for an offshore release; calm water and beautiful weather. Officer Richard Cobo, FWC Law Enforcement, generously donated his time and resources while bringing us to the weed line and assisting with the release.

When sea turtle hatchlings emerge from their nest they have a reaction that causes them to crawl towards the brightest light, which naturally would be the moon reflecting off of the ocean surface. Upon reaching the water, hatchling sea turtles will swim for up to 24 hours. This behavior is known as “swim frenzy.” Left over yolk, from the egg, will provide nutrition for the sea turtle during this time. The “frenzy” brings the turtles into deeper water and eventually to the sargassum weed line. The sargassum provides nutrition and helps protect the turtles from predators. Sea turtles will spend the first several years of their lives in the sargassum (pictured below to the right).

There are many obstacles a hatchling sea turtle may face upon emerging from their nest. Predation, disorientation, dehydration are all very real threats. Sea turtle hatchlings commonly fall prey to fox, birds, raccoons, and fish. Hatchling disorientation occurs when a hatchling is misdirected, often times due to unnatural lighting on the beach.  Disoriented (misdirected) hatchlings will have a higher exposure to predators. Often time’s disorientation leads to fatal dehydration as well, due to the hot summer sun. Approximately 1/1000 sea turtle hatchlings survives to adulthood.

The hatchlings that we receive at the LMC were unable to make it out into the water. The majority of our hatchling patients come in due to disorientations. We typically hold hatchlings for up to two weeks. We provide proper nutrition and ensure that each one is strong enough for release. Upon release we bring them offshore to the sargassum weed line, increasing their chance for survival into adulthood. Loggerhead hatchlings emerge on our beaches between mid June and September, and Green hatchlings between late July and November.

I would like to thank Richard Cobo, FWC Law Enforcement, for his support and generosity, and Sonja Strandlie for providing the photos for this post along with assisting on the release. Thank You.

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