Police officers in St. Petersburg Beach, Florida, responded to a call in the early morning hours of August 2 to help hundreds of baby sea turtles who had lost their way.
The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said they received a call from a hotel security guard reporting that hundreds of baby turtles were swarming the property after they were attracted to the wrong body of water — the hotel’s illuminated pool, which the turtles mistook for the ocean.
The guard collected around 15 of the roughly 100 turtles and brought them back to the ocean before realizing he needed backup.
Sergeant Mackesy and Deputies Lopez and Wheeler arrived at the hotel to find the sea turtles “all over the area, including in the hotel’s pool, in the bushes, in the bathroom and even in the storm drain,” the sheriff’s office wrote on Facebook.
A video posted by the sheriff’s office showed the officers dumping the baby turtles from a bucket back onto the sand near the waves on advice from an on-duty Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation and Commission (FWC) officer, who said to release the turtles near the water’s edge.
The officers then guided the turtles back toward the ocean.
“Go little babies. Keep going. Follow your friends,” Mackesy said.
“Wrong way,” she added. “Keep shining that way. If you turn the light, they all turn toward it,” she told deputies as they pointed their flashlights toward the waves to guide the turtles.
Deputies then scanned the beach to look for any on the run.
“Is that the last one? Did we get everybody?” Mackesy said while looking around to make sure. “Bye, babies.”
“We think Finding Nemo’s pal Crush would be pretty proud of this crew and the deputies too!” the sheriff’s office joked on Facebook.
Stephanie Roche, an environmental project coordinator with Broward County, said the turtles can get confused by artificial light sources. “Our development and our buildings are brighter than the ocean, and sometimes it confuses the turtles, and they crawl the wrong way,” she explained.
Turtles instinctively move away from darker areas such as sand dunes to brighter areas such as light from stars or moonlight reflected off ocean waves.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that all six sea turtle species in the U.S. are protected by the Endangered Species Act.
“Only one in 5,000 sea turtles makes it in our oceans to adulthood,” Betty Zirkelbach, manager of the nonprofit The Turtle Hospital, said.