IRMA: Storm endangers sea turtle nests on Volusia, Flagler beaches

By Brittany Jones, Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, September 06, 2017, 9:52 PM EDT

Hurricane Irma has turtle patrol volunteers on alert, with hundreds of nests still waiting to hatch.

  • Over 200 nests still on area beaches
  • Nests could be damaged by Hurricane Irma
  • Turtle season runs through October

For 16 years Lori Ottlein has taken great joy in volunteering with the Volusia-Flagler turtle patrol.

"It just makes your heart feel so good -- there he goes, gone," said Ottlein.

She goes out to check on the turtle nests in the mornings.

"It's been a very good year for turtles," said Ottlein.

Ottlein said last year wasn't too bad, either, even after Hurricane Matthew which didn't do much damage because there were only about 6 nests left on the beach when it passed.

This year, however, there are nearly 200 nests still out there, making Hurricane Irma a source of tremendous concern.

"[Irma] can actually wash out the nests," said Ottlein. "If the storm water comes up and just washed the nest away, then it washes the eggs off onto the beach.

The nests include loggerheads, green sea turtles and leatherback nests.

Ottlein said they'll have no choice but to move them into the water; otherwise, they would drown if Irma hits.

She said the last time they had to take such action was when three hurricanes hit back-to-back in 2004.

"Starting tomorrow, if anything hatches or emerges tomorrow or the next couple days we're going to clean the nest immediately and send the hatchlings out," said Ottlein.

Ottllein added that losing all of the turtles would be devastating; thankfully, the main turtle nests that remain on the beach are green sea turtles, which tend to dig deeper.

"You just think if you don't save them and get out of there that's a lot of babies a lot of nests that are gone," said Ottlein.

Turtle Patrol told us when hatchlings hatch they usually give them three days to come out on their own. Most of the time the hatchlings come out the first day, but with the storm they'd move them a lot quicker.

Turtle season runs until the end of October.