Florida Keys

Why did the sea turtle cross the busy road? To lay eggs on the other side.

Key West police help a loggerhead turtle, disoriented while laying eggs, cross South Roosevelt Boulevard early Thursday morning.
Key West police help a loggerhead turtle, disoriented while laying eggs, cross South Roosevelt Boulevard early Thursday morning.

A loggerhead turtle became disoriented early Wednesday morning and crossed a busy four-lane Key West road four times after laying her eggs on a path across the street from Smathers Beach, police said.

Around 5 a.m. Wednesday, someone reported seeing a loggerhead turtle laying her eggs on the Bridle Path across the street from Smather’s Beach. When officers arrived, they found the huge turtle attempting to cross the four-lane South Roosevelt Boulevard and return to the ocean. They set up a perimeter, blocking traffic to ensure safe passage for the turtle.

“We were well aware of the dire circumstances the turtle was in, having crossed the road once to make a nest in inhospitable terrain,” said Officer Carter Sims, who was the first to arrive on scene.

The officers protected the turtle as she worked her way back to the beach and along about 40 feet of shoreline where a raft of seagrass blocked her from reentering the water. Distressed, she turned back to the road, crossed the four lanes of black top and returned to the Bridle Path.

While two of the officers protected the turtle from oncoming traffic, others located the nest full of eggs. They surrounded the site with crime tape and contacted the Key West Sea Turtle Club rescue group for help.

In the meantime, the exhausted turtle again turned to the beach and began to cross the boulevard. Again. Before her traverse was complete, the group of turtle rescue volunteers arrived, providing the officers with enough manpower and expertise to return the turtle back to the water.

Next, the volunteers were able to relocate the nest so the hatchlings won’t be at risk when they make that first dangerous run to the sea. In all, there were 127 eggs, according to the Key West Sea Turtle Club.

The incident is a good reminder turtle nesting season is here and there are things people can do to make it safer for them. If you live near a beach, turn off outdoor lighting at night and shade windows because turtles are attracted to light.

“Key West’s beaches are closed to the public each night at 11 p.m., and this time of year it’s vital that people heed the law,” Crean said.

Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen

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