Mote’s sea turtle 5K draws more than 1,000 to Siesta Beach

More than 1,000 runners and walkers hit the beach to help endangered and threatened sea turtles during Mote Marine Laboratory’s 32nd annual Run for the Turtles today, April 7, on Siesta Public Beach. (Race results below).

The Run, a 5K race sanctioned by the Manasota Track Club and a 1-mile fun-run/walk, has provided major support for Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program. In mid-April, Mote scientists and volunteers will begin their 37th year coordinating sea turtle conservation along 35 miles of Sarasota County beaches. Sea turtle nesting season officially spans May through October in southwest Florida.

“Run for the Turtles helps us to continue monitoring and protecting the sea turtles who nest on our beaches,” said Melissa Bernhard, Senior Biologist with Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation & Research Program. “The funds raised through this event allow us to continue monitoring their nesting on our local beaches, including here on Siesta Key, and add to our 36-year data set. With the recent increases in nesting numbers observed over the last decade or so, we anticipate another great year of nesting and thank everyone who came out today to support our effort. The turtles thank you!”

In Mote’s patrol area, Longboat Key through Venice, the Program counted a record 4,588 nests in 2016 and a near-record 4,503 in 2017, mirroring positive trends statewide.

At the Run, participants and scores of friends and supporters brightened up Siesta Public Beach before sunrise. Mote mascots Shelley the Sea Turtle and Gilly the Shark greeted runners younger than 9 to older than 80. Then runners hit the beach, competing for overall fastest times for males and females in the 5K and 1-mile races, along with fastest time for each age group in the 5K.

At the awards ceremony, Mote Trustee Scott Collins addressed the guests:

"On behalf of the entire Mote family, thank you all for participating in our 32nd Run for the Turtles," Collins said. "This is Mote's 37th year of conservation and research contributing to county, state and federal efforts to benefit sea turtles. Sea turtle nesting season is upon us, starting May 1, and we look forward to having those beautiful sea turtles lay their eggs and having their little hatchlings emerge here on our beaches."

Over its 36-year history, Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation & Research Program has documented 91,801 sea turtle crawls (tracks) and protected an estimated 2.4 million local hatchlings. Using ID tags, Mote has identified 5,873 individual nesting females during more than 10,000 encounters, and has even fitted some sea turtles with satellite transmitter tags to track their migrations through the ocean.

Beyond the Run, everyone can support Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation & Research Program by visiting Mote.org/support/donate, choosing “Marine animal research and conservation” and typing “sea turtle conservation and research” into the comment box.

Mote sincerely thanks the partners and sponsors who made this event possible.

Partners are: New Balance; Fleet Feet; Manasota Track Club; Koala Tees and Molly's! Chic & Unique Boutique. The Grand Tortuga Sponsor is The Mosaic Company. The Leatherback Sponsor is BB&T Insurance Services. Kemp’s Ridley Sponsors are: Willis A. Smith Construction Inc.; Vengroff Williams Inc.; and United Natural Foods, Inc. Hawksbill Sponsors are: Gulf Coast Community Foundation; Wilde Insurance Services; Sarasota Orthopedic Associates; Cooper Creek Dental; Southwest Florida Association of Environmental Professionals; Trader Joe's; and Deep Sea Diner. Green Turtle Sponsors are: Sarasota Ford/Congressman Vern & Sandy Buchanan/James Buchanan Realty; Holiday Inn at Lido Beach; Myers Campbell Family; Morton's Gourmet Market; and Joan L. Osgood, LMT. Loggerhead Sponsors are: Keller Williams on the Water; Subway; and Jerris & Steve Foote. Additional in-kind sponsorship was provided by: Dees Integrative Health; Costco; Biofreeze; Sears Clean & Sears Garage Doors; ABC7; Spectrum; Comcast; iHeart Media and WSLR; Icelandic Glacial and DS Services.

Race results

    

    

Top left to bottom right: 5K male winner Hector Gozman, 5K female winner Joy Younkin, 1-mile male winner Saxton Riggs, and tied 1-mile female winners, sisters Chloe (left) and Brooke Cicilioni, with Mote Mascot Shelley the Sea Turtle. Credit all: Conor Goulding/Mote Marine Laboratory

5K winners:
Overall male winner: Hector Gozman, age 49. Time: 19:03.
Overall female winner: Joy Younkin, age 46. Time: 22:32.

1-mile fun run/walk winners:
Male winner: Saxton Riggs, age 12. Time: 7:22.
Female winner: Tie between sisters Brooke and Chloe Cicilioni, both age 7. Time for both: 9:58.

For a complete list of finalized results from each 5K age category visit: manasotatrackclub.org and accuchiptiming.com

Sea turtle nesting season tips

During sea turtle nesting season, May 1-Oct. 31, please heed the following turtle-friendly tips. Starting early is great too; sometimes the first local sea turtle nests arrive in April.

  • DO stay away from sea turtle nests marked with yellow stakes and tape, and seabird nesting zones bounded by ropes.
  • DO remain quiet and observe from a distance if you encounter a nesting sea turtle or hatchlings.
  • DO shield or turn off outdoor lights that are visible on the beach from May through October.
  • DO close drapes after dark and stack beach furniture at the dune line or, ideally, remove it from the beach.
  • DO fill in holes that may entrap hatchlings on their way to the water.
     
  • DON’T approach nesting turtles or hatchlings, make noise, or shine lights at turtles.
  • DON’T use flashlights, head lamps or fishing lamps on the beach.
  • DON’T encourage a turtle to move while nesting or pick up hatchlings that have emerged and are heading for the water.
  • DON’T use fireworks on the beach.
  • DON’T walk dogs on any Sarasota County beach other than Brohard Paw Park in Venice. There, dogs must be leashed or under voice control, according to county ordinances.

Sea turtles are protected under federal law and any harassment or interference with a sea turtle, living or dead, is subject to penalty. If you witness anyone disturbing a turtle or find an injured or disoriented hatchling or adult, please notify agents with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922), the local sheriff’s department, and/or Mote Marine Laboratory’s Sea Turtle Conservation & Research Program at 941-388-4331. If you find a dead or injured sea turtle, contact Mote’s Stranding Investigations Program at 941-988-0212.