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On-island sea turtle volunteers back on daily patrols
May 21, 2020

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About 80 of the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation's highly devoted sea turtle program volunteers are back on daily rotation to patrol the island beaches as of May 19.

The city of Sanibel authorized on-island volunteers to follow specific guidelines to protect their health and safety and the community's. With a very active and early sea turtle nesting season that started April 15, SCCF Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan is thrilled to have her whole team back in action.

"There's nothing that shows you the true value of volunteers like not having them," she said. "It's a great relief to have them back. They do so much work for us."

From walking the beach in pairs looking for crawls, to staking and marking nests and doing data entry, the volunteers are an integral part of the sea turtle program.

When inviting the on-island volunteers back after more than a month that they stayed safer-at-home out of an abundance of caution, Sloan made sure to emphasize that no one should feel any pressure to participate in these times of a global pandemic unless they felt safe and ready.

"The only people who regretfully didn't come back were the ones who live off island," she said. "Everyone who lives on the islands is back with us and we look forward to the time that those who live off island can return as well."

In an email to volunteers, Sloan listed the following guidelines:

- On-island volunteers can commence their turtle patrols on May 19.

- They will use the same strict one-person-per-vehicle rule the SCCF is currently using with staff (unless two people live in the same household). There are strict disinfection protocols in place for all of the vehicles. SCCF also enforces social distancing in all interactions.

- Volunteers will not use or access the public beach parking (SCCF will get in touch with them about alternate parking options).

- Volunteers should all bring face masks with them in the event a member of the public approaches to ask questions.

"This has been a super exciting season so far and we're happy for you to experience it first-hand out on the beach," she added.

As of May 20, there were 25 loggerhead nests and one leatherback nest on the east end of Sanibel; 78 loggerhead nests and two leatherback nests on the west end of Sanibel; and 36 loggerhead nests and one leatherback nest on Captiva - a total of 143 nests, which is above average for this time of year.

Help protect the turtles by following the SCCF guidelines at www.sccf.org/our-work/sea-turtles.

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Regular Size Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander