A leatherback sea turtle named Juniper, who is now being tracked in real time, has returned to Sanibel and nested for a second time. Juniper’s second nest is part of a record high 334 sea turtle nests on the islands this season.
The Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation sea turtle team, along with Florida Leatherbacks Inc., estimate Juniper may have laid eight nests this season with some of the them prior to the start of beach monitoring. Her two nests on Sanibel’s beach are notable because leatherbacks typically prefer the southeast coast.
“We really have no idea if Juniper’s other nests are on our beaches or somewhere else,” said SCCF Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan. “We just suspect there are more based on the timing.”
FLI, the non-profit organization dedicated to researching leatherback nesting on the east coast, documented the first nest of the season on Feb. 6, making it the earliest on record for the species in the state. The organization’s research shows leatherbacks return every 8 to 11 days and nesting 10 to 11 times a season, which means Juniper may return to the islands.
Sloan says she is grateful to have all the SCCF sea turtle volunteers back on patrol with off-island volunteers returning last week. “We are so happy to have all them back in action,” she said. “They do so much work for us and we are having a very busy season.”
Captiva is now up to 114 nests, the east end of Sanibel has 58 and the west end of Sanibel has 162. Those numbers include a nest from a green turtle, four leatherback nests and the remaining from loggerhead turtles.
The SCCF sea turtle team had an unusual encounter last week with a loggerhead nesting in the daytime near Gulf Pines. SCCF reported she was the second daytime nest this season, and they occurred on the same day.