Sea turtle nesting season began in May, and the latest count by Collier County shows about eighty fewer nests on the county's beaches than this time last year. But local wildlife experts expect those numbers to rise quickly over the next few months.
"I know that Tropical Storm Alberto did inundate a few nests in different location, but overall they seem to be doing OK and the numbers are quickly growing," said Katie Ferron of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida in Naples.
But Lina Ramirez, a Florida Gulf Coast University Student who volunteers with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation believes there is a threat on area beaches that could have an impact on sea turtle nests.
"I do sea turtle monitoring, and every time I go out I have a bucket and I pick up the garbage," Ramiriez said.
"You would be surprised what I find on the beach," she added. "Anything from a dozen or more beer cans, to diapers."
While there are many more sea turtle nests on Florida's east coast than on Collier and Lee County beaches, most of the east coast hatchlings tend to be female. Ferron said that temperature determines the turtles' gender, and that nests in Southwest Florida are important to the species, since their cooler nests produce mostly male hatchlings.
"Without the males, obviously the sea turtles wouldn't do very well," Ferron said. "So we're really excited that we're able to have that consistent male population."
She said that the trash people leave behind at the beach is a huge problem for the turtle hatchlings. They can become disoriented or entangled in the debris, so she asks everyone to respect their habitat.
"Picking up your trash when you're at the beach, and even going a step further to use reusable items such as grocery bags or water bottles," Ferron said.
Only about one in every one thousand hatchlings live to adulthood, so Ferron said it's important to avoid marked sea turtle nests at the beach.