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First sea turtles hatch on Fort Myers Beach, some nests washed away

First hatchlings of the season, though water damage leads to many eggs not hatching

By Nathan Mayberg - Editor | Jul 20, 2021

Five loggerhead sea turtle nests were completely washed away during Tropical Storm Elsa, though the first two sea turtle nests of the season hatched on Fort Myers Beach over the weekend. Other nests also incurred heavy amount of rainfall. / File photo by Nathan Mayberg

Tropical Storm Elsa left its worst damage on Fort Myers Beach to five sea turtle nests.

Five sea turtle nests were completely washed away during the weather event this month, said Turtle Time founder Eve Haverfield. In addition, other turtle nests were washed over and could have also suffered damage. Haverfield said the nests that were washed over will be evaluated after the 70-day incubation period ends to determine if any of the eggs were victims of the storm.

“They may or may not have survived the over-wash. We won’t know until later in the season. Fortunately, sea turtles are still nesting,” Haverfield stated.

Meanwhile, the first two sea turtle nests of the season hatched over the weekend. Two loggerhead sea turtle nests hatched though there were only 43 hatchlings out of the 77 eggs. The 56% success rate was low for a normal nest and was attributed to the storm which passed through two weeks earlier, Haverfield stated.

“A number of embryonic hatchlings did not survive because the nest was over-washed during Tropical Storm Elsa and because of an inordinate rainfall around the time of the tropical storm. Fortunately, the nest was located in an area that is not raked and therefore drained quickly after having been washed over and therefore, a good number of hatchlings survived. The average hatch rate is 82% – 86% although we’ve certainly seen higher and even 100% hatch rates,” Haverfield stated in an email.

Due to the large amount of rainfall on Fort Myers Beach during Tropical Storm Elsa, only 56% of the eggs hatched in the first two nests to hatch over the weekend on Fort Myers Beach. / File photo by Nathan Mayberg

“We usually don’t have tropical storms of the magnitude of Elsa this early in the nesting season.  Usually, the first generation of nests hatches successfully. If we have more storms like Elsa or worse, then the outcome for this season might be grim,” Haverfield stated.

As of Monday, there were 82 sea turtle nests on Fort Myers Beach. The number of nests has risen by more than 50% over the past month.

Asked if the loss of five turtle nests from a storm was normal for a nesting season on Fort Myers Beach, Haverfield said it was too early to tell.

“Since we cannot evaluate the loss until we excavate (the) nests, I can’t really categorize the loss as ‘normal’ or not,” Haverfield stated.