Here’s some turtle low-down, according to Robert Schonfeld:
Turtle nestsTo know which kind of turtle made a nest, or if it actually is a nest, you have to be able to read the tracks and the sand, Schonfeld said. “The sand that’s ontop of a nest will be from underneath.
“Sometimes the mother will create a pile of sand because of the way she’s hit it, and that’s not really a nest. I also have to determine the species and that’s determined by looking at the tracks.
“One that made a nest in front of my condo recently had to be about 350 pounds. I could tell because some of her tracks had to be 5 feet long and 3 or 4 feet wide. To make marks like that, it had to be a loggerhead.
“Once a turtle starts to lay her eggs, she’s in a trance and she won’t go back to the ocean until she’s finished. She’ll cover the eggs up, and then go back.”
If the mother turtle sees someone before she starts laying or bumps into rocks or a seawall, she’ll stop and go back to the ocean. “That’s what we call a false crawl,” Schonfeld said. “We have encroached onto their nest-making environment.”
When Schonfeld finds a new nest, he puts up a stake with a sign that says “Keep 10 feet away” to mark the spot. The babies hatch two months later.Hatchlings
In each nest, 100 to 150 eggs are buried in about a couple feet of sand. “As the baby turtles dig their way out, the sand that makes up the ceiling falls to the bottom and becomes the floor and the whole nest rises up.
“Then, the baby turtles burst out and go to the sea.”
Some of the babies don’t get out — maybe a piece of grass or a part of an egg gets in the way, or maybe the turtle went in the wrong direction.
“You are not allowed to touch the nest, but after the nest has been evacuated three days, you can. And in August, groups of children and adults help me rescue — dig up — the baby turtles in nests already evacuated.
“No one else in the state is doing that, but in my territory, every Sunday morning in August, at 6:30 a.m., we dig up the little babies that didn’t get out.
“The babies are cute. They fit right in your hand, yet they are fully capable of taking care of themselves. Children enjoy seeing the baby turtles and rescuing them.”Life cycle
Schonfeld’s not entirely sure how long turtles live. He’s heard it could be up to 100 years, though they grow to full size in about 25 years. The leatherback can weigh as much as 1,500 pounds. The green turtles and the loggerhead get to be about 300 to 400 pounds.
“We have teenage immature green turtles that live here, but none of the turtles that lay their eggs here, live here. They come from the Caribbean or Central America every two to three years to make their nests and lay their eggs to perpetuate their species,” Schonfeld said.
“This is where they were born, and this is how they do it.”
If you want to take part in rescuing the baby turtles, call Schonfeld to make a reservation at (561) 547-1088. The group meets at the north end of Lantana