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First turtles hatch on Sarasota beaches

First turtles hatch on Sarasota beaches

Sarasota, Florida - The first sea turtle hatchlings of 2011 have been spotted making their way to the gulf.

This year's first hatch was documented on Tuesday, June 21 on the Sarasota County side of Longboat Key. The other two hatches were spotted the next day on Longboat Key's Manatee County side and on Siesta Key.

Scientists at Mote Marine laboratory say the nests hatched right on time, but observers did notice something disturbing. Some of the hatchlings were distracted by artificial light and became disoriented, losing their way to the sea.

World Oceans Day makes a splash at Mote

World Oceans Day makes a splash at Mote

Sarasota, FL -- Seas of ocean enthusiasts made Sunday's World Oceans Day Family Festival at Mote a big hit.

More than 1,100 guests filled Mote Aquarium to enjoy games, crafts, live music, educational tables and more at the June 5 event celebrating our oceans and their wondrous creatures.

People of all ages came face-to-face with real sharks, fish and other marine life in Mote Aquarium, which was all decked out for this year’s theme: Dr. Seuss’ “One, Two, Three and the Seas.” Kids celebrated by sporting some “cheeky” ocean art — face painting by Nada Meeks.

Gallery: 2011 World Oceans Day at Mote

Mote Mascot Percy the Penguin shook his tail feathers to drum up excitement for Penguin Island, a limited-time exhibit coming to Mote in November.

Free educational turtle walks offered

Free educational turtle walks offered

Sarasota, Florida -- If you're curious about sea turtle nesting, set your alarm clock and take an early morning walk with the experts.

Mote Marine Laboratory, along with the Hilton Longboat Key Beachfront Resort are offering free educational turtle walks every Saturday in June and July. 

The walks start at 6:15 a.m.

Participants should meet at the Hilton's pool area and expect a leisurely 1.5 mile stroll on Longboat Key.

Mating manatees possible near beaches

Mating manatees possible near beaches

Sarasota, Florida - The beaches are crowded this time of year, but one crowd you could see may seem a bit unusual. It's mating season for manatees and large groups of up to a dozen or so manatees can end up in shallow waters along beaches.

Single mating herds can last several weeks and be highly active as male manatees bustle around a female. There have already been reports of a mating herd of manatees earlier this month near Holmes Beach.

Mote Marine Laboratory scientists urge boaters and beach-goers to give the mating manatees wide berth, both for your own safety and for that of the manatees. They advise watching the manatees from at least 100 feet away, so that their natural behavior is not disrupted.

Sarasota County celebrates protections for endangered species

Sarasota County celebrates protections for endangered species

Sarasota County is a nature lover’s paradise. Its preserves, natural area parks, beaches and inlets all provide a refuge for plants and animals that are threatened with extinction -- from black bears and sea turtles to rare tropical plants. In other communities, such unique resources are only accessible through National Geographic or the Discovery Channel or by traveling far from home. In Sarasota County, residents and visitors have unrivaled opportunities to experience them up close, right in their backyard.

On May 20, 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, several conservation organizations and Sarasota County will observe Endangered Species Day to recognize the nationwide conservation programs under way to protect America’s threatened and endangered species.

Turtles make timely arrival

Turtles make timely arrival

Longboat Key, Florida - Turtle nesting season runs from May 1 through October 31, and turtles appear to have been watching their calendars. On Sunday, volunteer patrollers located two nests on Longboat Key. A third nest was located on May 2 on Siesta Key.

All three nests were laid by loggerhead sea turtles. They're the most common species on local beaches and considered threatened under federal law. Female loggerheads take about 30 years to mature and begin nesting and they don't nest every year.

This season makes the 30th year that Mote Marine Laboratory has coordinated sea turtle conservation from Longboat Key through Venice. "Local nesting has started right on schedule-so far it has been business as usual," said Tony Tucker, Manager of Mote's Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program.

Mote's new mascot: Percy the penguin

Mote's new mascot: Percy the penguin

Sarasota, Florida - The penguins are coming and Mote Marine Laboratory is paving the way with a new mascot.

Black-footed penguins will be featured in a limited-time exhibit at Mote scheduled to run from November 1, 2011-February 29, 2012. Penguin Island is designed to help raise awareness and support for penguin conservation.

And to help generate excitement for the new exhibit, Mote has a new mascot. Its name, Percy, was chosen through an online contest and announced this week.