Leatherbacks get around. Now, they’ve found a new beach.

Miami Herald reports on some hope for an endangered species – the first known leatherback nest (with hatchlings!) found in the Florida Keys:

The nest is at Bahia Honda State Park at mile marker 36.8 in the Lower Keys. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission wildlife biologist Sue Schaf said the last time leatherback nests were found down here was in 2004, when three were found in the Dry Tortugas 70 miles west of Key West.

“I guess [the Bahia Honda] turtle got a little lost,” Schaf said.

Ranger Elaine Mason discovered a circular depression in the sand that indicates a hatched nest. Upon investigating, she found a live hatchling emerging from the nest. Schaf, who specializes in sea turtles, confirmed the find. The hatchling was healthy and active and ready to swim.

Zaharah Buck, an 8-year-old junior ranger from Michigan, had the honor of releasing the baby into the ocean. The nest was left alone for the next 72 hours to await more hatchlings and then evaluation. Periodic monitoring of the nest revealed more turtle tracks, indicating more emerging hatchlings, [park specialist Keely] Final said.

Final said the low number of hatchlings might be attributed to high tides in June; the nest had possible saltwater intrusion.

She said the park will have to wait two to three years to see if the mother leatherback returns to lay another nest, and anywhere from nine to 13 years to see if the hatchlings that emerged return to the park beach to lay nests.

[via Mr. Clarry.]

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