Satellite-tracked turtle returns to nest again
by Ludi Lellis, Orlando Sentinel on May, 23 2011
About three years ago, she crawled off a Brevard County beach, a satellite tag glued to her back so that turtle fans could track her. Now, the loggerhead sea turtle has returned to Central Florida, back again at our beaches to nest again.
The return of the Belle O’Brevard, as she was named, has thrilled turtle researchers, who have learned much through satellite tagging of the sea-faring reptiles.
“Usually the transmitters don’t last long enough but on this turtle, we’ve been able to track her for three years,” said Rocio Johnson, with the Sea Turtle Conservancy in Gainesville.
The Belle O’Brevard was so named as part of a contest during the 2008 Tour de Turtles, an annual event hosted by the Sea Turtle Conservancy in which several turtles are fitted with satellite tags and then tracked for a marathon distance of 2,620 kilometers.
In 2008, this particular turtle, then weighing 350 pounds, had come ashore at the Archie Carr Refuge near Melbourne Beach to dig a nest but before she could return to sea, a fist-sized satellite transmitter was glued to her shell.
The transmitter has stuck, sending a satellite signal every three days. Her favorite migration path is between the Carolinas and Maryland, where she is apparently following the horseshoe migration season. You can see her migration map at this website.
She headed south to Florida a few weeks back and has been staying close to the Brevard coast. Turtles normally return to the beach where they first hatched to lay their own eggs and loggerheads are known to lay eggs about every two to three years. So it would seem that her biological clock is due for another round of nests.
Johnson noted, though, that no one has confirmed a nest, because no one has yet caught up with her at a beach during the nocturnal egg-laying.
On behalf of STC, thanks for continuing to cover sea turtles, Ludi!