There are days when the weather conspires to make the beach a place for natural inhabitants alone, a place inhospitable to creatures without feathers, gills or hard shells. At such times water, wind or cold temperatures throw up unwelcome signals warning that conditions are, temporarily at least, on the outer edge of safe.
Today was that kind of day on Florida’s east coast at the latitude of 29°. From early morning, rain was heavy and the only thing on the beach apart from sand and seashells was birds, and even they were few in number. Looking through windows the outdoor perspective was little other than ghost-like lines rubbed faint by hard falling slants of rain, the definition of horizon, surf and sand smeared, if not by cloud or fog, then by a weakness of light. One of those times when warm and dry interiors offer the better choice.
Hard and steady rain lasted through the early afternoon but by three o’clock people were sniffing the air, venturing out for a look at what the sodden beach might hold. Not long before a straggle of people were plodding along the water’s edge. It wasn’t a pristine stroll, as rain and tide had worked together to throw up a grimy beard of jetsam and ruined bits of plastic along the surf line, a sight thankfully rare during these colder months.
A half mile south I came upon a first-time sight, one that no one likes to see. At some time during the long hours of rain, a sea turtle—what looked to be a mature Loggerhead—had come ashore, and there just above the waterline breathed its last. Orange paint spattered on its back is probably a marker put there by the beach patrol. Tire tracks circling the turtle could come from only the beach patrol who relay such information but do not get involved. Local fish and wildlife officers will pick up the turtle and determine the cause of death. Disease or sickness is a possibility, but so is cold shock, the very same that is affecting catfish and snook.
Sad to see the death of a magnificent creature like the sea turtle, but then nature in its myriad ways is nothing if not example of pure democracy.
Some interesting sea turtle tidbits:
• Sea turtles have existed for over 100 million years.
• Florida beaches are ‘home’ to eighty percent of Loggerhead turtles in the US.
• Scientists estimate that only one in 1,000 babies reaches adulthood.
• Hatchlings weigh 1 ounce and are 2 inches long; adults often grow to over 3 feet long, weighing 200-300 pounds.
• Nest temperatures during incubation determine a turtle’s sex. Males develop in cooler temperatures, females in hotter temperatures.