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"My career was boring; this is great!" Volunteer thrilled at sea turtles' return

Volunteers in Englewood get ready for nest watching, after Florida saw a record number of Loggerhead and Green turtle nests in 2023.
Posted at 8:47 PM, Apr 15, 2024

ENGLEWOOD, Fla. — Sea turtle nesting season has returned in Southwest Florida, and so has a citizen scientist monitoring program that documents and protects nests on the area’s beaches.

I'm Fox 4's Alex Orenczuk, one of Fox 4's Community Correspondents committed to Charlotte County. And on Monday, I met Carol McCoy out on the beach in Englewood, where her excitement was contagious.

Alex orenczuk carol mccoy sea turtles englewood charlotte county
One of Charlotte County's Community Correspondents, Alex Orenczuk, walks with Coastal Wildlife Club volunteer Carol McCoy, as she shows him how she will monitor sea turtle nests, once they begin appearing along this beach in Englewood.

“I’ve always been a conservationist at heart,” said McCoy. “This is like the highlight of my life, my career was boring and this is great and I’m doing it as a volunteer.”

McCoy retired from a career in information technology with the FAA, but this new "career" of helping conserve sea turtles, she says, is a dream come true.

“Everyday during turtle season we have volunteers that come out and monitor the area looking for crawls [where a turtle had crawled out of the water],” said Carol McCoy, a Coastal Wildlife Club volunteer. “We mark every nest and tape them off for safety, and monitor them everyday for anything that might happen to it.”

sea turtle tracks englewood
A photo showing tracks in the sand from a sea turtle, taken by the Coastal Wildlife Club, Inc.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the state saw a record number of Loggerhead turtle nests (134,933) and Green turtle nests (77,040) in 2023. Nesting data is partially collected by trained volunteers like the Coastal Wildlife Club who surveys turtle activity on Manasota Key and other beaches in the area.

"Really it's so exciting and that first nest, it's really heaven on earth for me and I'm sure all our other volunteers.”

Sea turtle nesting season lasts from mid-April through October, during which volunteers like McCoy see new generations of multiple species of turtles hatch and return to the Gulf.

alex orenczuk coastal wildlife club sea turtles nesting season englewood
One of Fox 4's Charlotte County Community Correspondents Alex Orenczuk talks with Coastal Wildlife Club volunteer Carol McCoy about what she's doing to gear up for a new sea turtle nesting season in Englewood.

“It symbolizes the offspring of a species that’s long lived,” said McCoy. “Females are 20-30 years old before they come back here to nest, you see a species trying to perpetuate itself and it's really a fulfilling thing."

CWC and FWC officials are reminding beach-goers to be mindful of turtles during nesting season. Beach-goers should leave the beach at dusk and take all trash with them, turn off lights near beaches at night, and not to touch or disturb sea turtles or nests found on the beaches.

To report a stranded or injured sea turtle, or to report someone disturbing a nest, click here or call FWC's Division of Law Enforcement at 1-888-404-3922.