218 Nighttime Sea Turtle Encounters Recorded in 2022
Coastal Wildlife staff recorded 218 sea turtle encounters last year during SCCF’s nighttime sea turtle tagging program, which includes daily night patrols spanning 13 weeks. The encounters included 125 unique female sea turtles.
During nighttime patrols, sea turtles are checked for tags. If none are present, staff apply two types of tags — flipper tags, which are placed on a scale located on the turtle’s front flippers, and Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tags, which contain microchips. Both flipper and PIT tags bear a unique letter-number sequence, which for PIT tags must be detected with a special tag reader.
“The application of tags is important, because they help us identify individual turtles,” said Sea Turtle Biologist Jack Brzoza. “When we find a tag, we can search a database that tells us who the turtle is, when she was seen nesting previously, where else she’s been encountered, and when she was first documented. Such information can be useful to identify inter-nesting intervals and nest site fidelity, among other trends.”
Over 40 sea turtles that already had tags had previously nested on Sanibel and were tagged on the island.
Since SCCF’s tagging project began in 2016, staff have encountered 924 unique individual sea turtles, 364 of which have been seen on more than one occasion.
“A few familiar faces seen in 2022 were green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) Dellora, Holly, and Olivia. Dellora came back to nest for the second season in a row for the second time — she did so in 2018 and 2019 as well,” Brzoza said. “Junonia, who we’ve been tracking through an additional satellite transmitter tag applied in 2020, also returned to Sanibel several times.”
Oregano, a loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) who was originally tagged in 2018, went down as the largest turtle staff encountered in 2022 (and is one of the top 10 largest loggerheads across all seasons!). She was sighted twice this year.
The 80 sea turtles that SCCF tagged this year for the first time were nicknamed after Pokémon, such as Diglett, Mudkip, and Rapidash.
“In the seasons that follow, when tag numbers entered into our database match a turtle with a Pokémon name, we can instantly know we first encountered her in 2022,” Brzoza explained.