BRADENTON BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch Director Suzi Fox says an unusual number of turtles on Sarasota and Manatee beaches are becoming disoriented this nesting season and wandering inland.
Turtles can become disoriented when distracted by artificial lighting, beachgoers and other obstacles in their paths. Mote Marine scientists recorded 23 instances of disoriented turtles. That's nearly twice the number of season totals from previous years.
Fox doesn't know what's behind the sudden increase. Neighboring beaches have not reported similar problems this season.
"My theory is that our beaches are disappearing and the nesting habitat is disappearing," said Fox, who called for beach renourishment projects. "They're seeking higher ground."
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports that educating the public has helped. The beach area has reduced artificial lighting and residents know not to leave out beach chairs and other trash because turtles can easily get caught in them. She said five years ago, it wasn't uncommon to see 30 beach chairs left out, but now she rarely sees them.
Holmes Beach police officers also went through training so they can also oversee nesting activities while they are patrolling the waterfront.
"That's turned out to be the best thing we ever did," Fox said.