Tampa/ Parks & Nature
AI Assisted Icon
Published on June 19, 2024
Vehicle Fatally Strikes Nesting Loggerhead Sea Turtle on Anna Maria Island Amidst Disorientation IssuesSource: Google Street View

In a somber incident on Anna Maria Island, a female loggerhead sea turtle was struck and killed by a vehicle after she became disoriented, leading her away from the safety of the ocean, this according to the Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring (AMITWSBM). The turtle had just completed nesting in the nearby dunes when the tragedy occurred. As reported by WFLA, the turtle was victim to the misleading glow of streetlights at a crosswalk on Gulf Drive.

The disorientation caused by artificial lighting is a danger to sea turtles, which by nature, are drawn to the brightest horizon, usually the light reflected over the ocean. AMITWSBM highlighted in a statement obtained by FOX 13 News, that the flipped narrative of bright lights on land can draw these animals towards peril instead of safety. The local ordinances require lights that can be seen from the beach to be either turned off or adjusted to be turtle-friendly, particularly during nesting season.

Despite the tragic outcome, there was a note of continuation as the AMITWSBM reported that the turtle had successfully deposited her eggs before being mislead to the roadway. “The good news is that she laid eggs before heading towards the road, so her legacy will continue,” Kristen Mazzarella, Executive Director of AMITWSBM, told mysuncoast.com. However, concerns have been raised about the fate of the new nest and the potential for similar fates due to the lighting unless immediate modifications are made. In the past year, over a quarter of the turtle nests on the island experienced disorientation due to artificial lighting.

Organizations including the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and partners such as Florida Power and Light, are working to find turtle-friendly lighting solutions to mitigate future occurrences. Public outreach, including informing residents on how to report lighting violations to local code enforcement, is a part of the response plan. AMITWSBM extended gratitude towards local authorities and organizations like Mote Marine Laboratory, for their support during the aftermath of the incident. The deceased turtle is to be taken for a necropsy, as determined by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Anyone witnessing a sea turtle in distress on Anna Maria Island is urged to contact AMITWSBM at 941-301-8434, or FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922.