Sheriff deputies in Pinellas County, Florida, have responded to countless calls from St. Pete Beach over the years, but a recent call from a local hotel security guard asking help rounding up some trespassers wasn’t their ordinary nuisance situation. The visitors loitering in the hotel lobby and surrounding area were dozens of baby sea turtles!
“While the majority of us were sleeping, Sergeant Mackesy, Deputy Lopez, and Deputy Wheeler responded to a call early this morning from a security guard at a hotel on St. Pete Beach concerning sea turtle hatchlings that had gotten very lost while making their maiden voyage out to the ocean,” the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office shared in a Facebook post on Aug. 2 that went viral.
According to the post, the hotel’s security guard had already gathered about 15 of the tiny turtles before calling in for reinforcements. Once officers arrived, they continued to locate the confused turtles in the hotel pool, bushes, bathrooms and even in a storm drain.
That’s when one of the sergeants contacted the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for some expert advice about what to do with the animals. The wildlife experts told the officers to bring the turtles to the water’s edge and let them go to the ocean on their own.
The short clip shared by the sheriff’s office comes from an officer’s body camera, and it’s guaranteed to make you smile. It shows the officers and other volunteers working to guide every single one of the babies into the water after their unscheduled trip inland.
According to the group Sea Turtle Trackers, which monitors turtle activity in St. Pete Beach and Shell Key Preserve, hatched baby turtles use natural light to orient themselves and lead them to the ocean. Sometimes, though, artificial lights from nearby buildings can interfere with their directional system. This is likely how this group of little ones ended up scooting toward the hotel where they were found.
One of the Sea Turtle Trackers volunteers, Mary Reish, told Tampa’s WTSP-TV that when she investigated the turtle nest later that morning, there were clear signs of problems.
“If you looked at the front of the nest, not one turtle went to the ocean,” Reish told the local news outlet, blaming the issue on the abundance of artificial lighting used by the resorts along the area’s beaches at night.
The nonprofit shared on Facebook that it plans to work more with St. Pete Beach Code Enforcement and the hotel in question “to educate them on the importance of wildlife-friendly lighting,” to help minimize these kinds of situations in the future. Safer practices would include using colored filters on light sources to help avoid attracting the attention of newly hatched turtles.
And while more turtles were found later in the morning, Sea Turtle Trackers made sure to thank the helpful first responders to the scene, including the deputies and security guard.
“Such a quick response saved a lot of little lives,” the organization wrote.