MELBOURNE BEACH, Fla. — Beachgoers were surprised Thursday morning to catch a rare sighting of a massive, 800-pound leatherback sea turtle nesting during the daytime.
Listed as an endangered species, leatherback sea turtle sightings are rare, but seeing one nesting -- which is typically done in the dark -- is even more extraordinary.
“They usually just come out at night, at least on the Florida beaches when no one was really around and no one can bother them,” David Rodriguez, a biologist with the University of Central Florida Turtle Research Group who was conducting a beach patrol, told WTVT-TV. “The only reason you would see them in the morning is they are nesting late in the night. She was still lingering till the early hours of the morning.”
Leatherback sea turtles can weigh up to 1,500 pounds and reach eight feet in length, according to Florida wildlife officials. Their nesting season is between March and July. The females nest at two or three year intervals and can lay up to 73 eggs in a clutch.
This turtle was tagged. Her name is Vienna and she last was spotted in 2016 on Juno Beach. She also nested along Juno beach earlier this year.
“It was something of an anomaly,” Rodriguez told WTVT-TV. “You never see those leatherbacks in the daytime. Even at night it is a chance. It was amazing.”
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