Many of you are familiar with our work on St. Pete Beach. Did you know that we are also responsible for nest monitoring on Shell Key and Outback Key? In 2017, there were more sea turtle nests on Shell Key than ever recorded, and we had our first nest on Outback Key. Unfortunately, many of these nests are in danger of being predated by coyotes before volunteers can reach the nests to cage them.
We need transportation to bring volunteers and required supplies out to Shell & Outback Keys.
On those days when we can't hitch a ride, we cannot access Outback Key at all, and Shell Key becomes nearly impossible to patrol. A land bridge had formed from private property in Tierra Verde, so in we were able to access the island by foot for most of 2017. However, only a few Iron Women and Iron Men have what it takes to patrol from there. Volunteers walk nearly 7 miles round-trip looking for sea turtle nests. The heat is grueling and the work perilous, requiring our team members to crawl through dense vegetation, hauling nest staking and cage materials in order to provide lifesaving protection for the eggs. Hurricane Irma, split the island in half, so again there no way for us to reach the south end without a boat or jet ski.
Can you help? We need transportation out to the islands. We'd rather hitch a ride than buy another boat, since we learned an expensive lesson in the past couple of years about used boats. That being said, we are going to try to raise enough funds for either a wave runner or new and/or more reliable boat, but we would still need volunteer captains.
We have been extremely fortunate to have received many rides out to Shell Key and back from our friends at Island Ferry. Sebastian and Captain Dan have spent many hours of their own time hauling us out there with our equipment. They get up before dawn to do this on their own time, as there are no scheduled Ferry trips out to Shell Key that early. It's quite a treat to go over to the island in style in their small comfortable vessel. They've also donated their time and boat for Beach Cleanup activities at Shell Key, taking groups of volunteers from Fort De Soto to Shell Key and back. However, they too have lives and responsibilities and we definitely don't want to take them for granted. Ideally, we'd like to ride one way with Island Ferry and the other way with some new volunteer boat captains so no one has to wait for our patrol to finish.