This has been an extraordinary year for turtle research on Sanibel despite the setbacks from the global pandemic. All 10 known species of freshwater, brackish, and terrestrial species that have been recognized on the islands in the past were documented this year. Three of the four marine turtle species known to nest on Sanibel nested this year.
The highlight was the leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) that returned to nest more than once. Of the non-marine turtles, the two rarest species known to live on Sanibel—the Florida chicken turtle (Deirochelys reticualria chrysea) and Florida mud turtle (Kinosternon steindachneri)—were documented multiple times during 2020.
“More than one observation of these turtles in a single year has never been recorded,” said SCCF Director of Wildlife & Habitat Management and herpetologist Chris Lechowicz. There are a few possible reasons for this anomaly, Lechowicz said, such as extreme high water lasting for a long period of time that caused these two ephemeral species to spend more time wandering on land or fewer disturbances by human activity due to lower numbers of people circulating during the pandemic.