Florida police officer Derek Conley rescued nearly 100 sea turtle hatchlings when he gathered them from a hotel parking lot and nearby street and released them into the Gulf of Mexico.
Conley was on patrol at 1 a.m. on Aug. 3, when he noticed a baby sea turtle crawling toward the front door of Sarasota’s Lido Beach Resort. A passerby told him that he’d seen more hatchlings in the parking lot.
With the help of hotel guests, Conley started gathering the tiny turtles in a box.
"I began collecting hatchlings from the street and stopped traffic several times to do so," Conley wrote in his report.
Conley spotted three dead turtles, according to a news release, but he estimates that 90-100 were saved. Upon collecting the turtles, he and the volunteers released them into the ocean.
There are five types of nesting sea turtles in Florida, and they nest along the beaches from May until late October. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the turtles make 40,000 to 84,000 nests in the state each year.
Adult females typically lay eggs on the beach at night, and they nest every two to three years. They lay several nests each season, which each hold about 100 eggs, but only about one in 1,000 baby turtles survive to adulthood.
Hatchlings emerge from the nests at night and instinctively move toward the brightest direction. On an undeveloped beach, this direction is the moonlit ocean.
However, artificial light can disorient sea turtles and cause them to head in the wrong direction, which is likely why the hatchlings Conley saved were headed toward the hotel.
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