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A Talk with a Sea Turtle Monitor

BEGIN TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: Open Line Friday in Carrabelle, Florida. This is Terry. Nice to have you on the program. Hello.

CALLER: Hi. Nice to talk to you, Rush.

RUSH: Thank you very much.

CALLER: Yesterday I was listening to you and you were talking about sea turtles, and you said something to the effect of it has not been proven that lights affect sea turtles. Were you talking about the big mama turtles or were you talking about the baby turtles?

RUSH: Talking about the hatchlings.

CALLER: Oh.

RUSH: It's actually both. I know the theory, but has been scientifically established.

CALLER: Well...

RUSH: Even in the official government documents and in the notices that we get from the state and the town here, "It is thought... It is highly suspected that... lights form an attraction to the turtles."

CALLER: Well...

RUSH: But they also tell us "artificial" light. They say the moon won't affect them. It's only human-manufactured lights.

CALLER: Well, Rush, I've been monitoring sea turtles for about 18 years, and --

RUSH: Tell me, how do you do that?

CALLER: Well (sigh), I --

RUSH: Do you spend every night on the beach?

CALLER: No, no, no, no. I go in the morning. I walk in the morning, and I walk a certain section of the beach, and I see what crawls have come up the night before, and I take my little flags and plant them.

RUSH: So you're looking at tracks, turtle tracks of the flippers --

CALLER: Yes, I'm looking at tracks, and then I verify that there is a clutch in there, and then I put the flags around --

RUSH: By "clutch" you mean a nest.

CALLER: Right.

RUSH: You mean a nest of freshly laid turtle eggs?

CALLER: Right.

RUSH: Right. Okay.

CALLER: So I put a sign, I put the flags around it and then I take a GPS reading.

RUSH: What color is it? A little orange flag you stick in the sand?

CALLER: You can use any color. I use orange.

RUSH: All right.

CALLER: And then the sign says, "Sea turtle nest," and then when I get home I'll put the date down.

RUSH: But you have yet to see an actual sea turtle egg?

CALLER: Oh! What are you...? Have I seen a sea turtle egg?

RUSH: No, I mean, you're marking a nest but you really haven't seen it?

CALLER: Oh, no, no, no! I go dig down in there and verify it. I go to the top egg.

RUSH: You dig down to the eggs and expose them?

CALLER: I... No, just the top one!

RUSH: Well, there's one dead.

CALLER: No. No. No. (gigging) No. I'm permitted by the state, and so I go down and I just dig. I know how to do it very carefully, and I find that first top egg, because they're plopped on top of one another. So I put the flags far enough around it so it didn't poke any eggs and then I mark it on my calendar. Fifty-five days later, I can tell when it's getting ready to hatch because it starts to cave in -- and that's when they're starting to dig, and they're starting to come out and make their way to the ocean.

RUSH: They always come out at night, right? That's --

CALLER: No, they do not.

RUSH: Well, wait a minute.

CALLER: Like if it's a rainy day and the sand's cool, they'll come out in the daytime.

RUSH: So but they won't come out in broad daylight, sunlight?

CALLER: Yes, they will!

RUSH: Well, then!

CALLER: Well, okay. I'll just say --

RUSH: Well, then wait a second.

CALLER: (giggling)

RUSH: Now, you may want to rethink what you're telling me.

CALLER: Wait, wait, wait. What I meant is they will come out in the sun.

RUSH: Because you can't get any brighter than the sun.

CALLER: Wait a minute.

RUSH: I don't care how many lights I turn on at night, I cannot duplicate the lumens coming off el sol.

CALLER: (giggling) Rush... Rush, I have... It's been completely dark, and I will sometimes take people on these little tours to see if a nest might be hatching, and it's dark. So I go down there, and I'll turn my flashlight on to see where the nest is, and if I get there and they're hatching out, if they're headed for the water, they turn right back toward the flashlight.

RUSH: That's not good.

CALLER: No! It's artificial light. Now, the big mama turtles, I don't really think the lights affect them, 'cause you get a lot of nests down where you are. Where I am in the Gulf Coast, north Florida, we don't really get as many as you'll get but you have lights all down there. But it does affect the babies.

RUSH: All right. Well, I'm not disputing this. I'm just saying scientifically it has not been established. It is thought to happen with anecdotal evidence such as yours. But I'm glad to be updated on this, and I'm glad you called, Terry. Remember, you're talking to the Palm Beach founder of the Turtle Preservation Society. I mean, don't misunderstand what's going on here.

END TRANSCRIPT

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