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FDOT crosswalk lights are being blamed for a loggerhead death near Bradenton Beach

A group of people wearing blue Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium shirts carry a sea turtle on a beach.
Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium
A loggerhead sea turtle nicknamed Mahomes, who was treated for exposure to red tide toxins off Sarasota County, was released by staff and volunteers of Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium and The Florida Aquarium on Anna Maria Island on May 30, 2023. Another adult loggerhead was killed after being hit by a car on June 19, 2024. Incidents involving loggerhead turtles on the road are not so common in adults — most involve hatchlings.

The female turtle was struck by a car early Wednesday morning. She died from her injuries a short time later.

New crosswalk lights are being blamed for the death of an adult loggerhead turtle last week on Anna Maria Island.

The Florida Department of Transportation set them up recently near Bradenton Beach. They caused the turtle to misread cues to return to the ocean.

"One of those cues is looking for the brightest horizon," said Kristen Mazzarella, the executive director of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch, "which is the white light of the stars in the sky over the ocean. And they use those cues to find their way back. And because of the artificial light in our area, it can confuse the sea turtles."

She added this is a fairly uncommon event for adult loggerheads.

"The adults have more cues that they can use," Mazzarella said, "they can smell and they can see and they can find their way to the water that way. But the hatchlings use only one general cue and that's going away from dark shadows and towards the brightest horizon."

FDOT has since turned off the lights and Mazarella said she is working with them to create a more "turtle-friendly" solution.

"Lighting shields are being procured and will then be installed to block the light from the shoreline," FDOT said in a statement.

Mazzarella urges those near the beaches to shield or turn off their lights — and not just for the safety of wildlife.

"I would say that everybody can help with lighting issues and help," Mazzarella said, "The lighting issues don't necessarily just help sea turtles, but they help people see the night sky and enjoy wildlife in a dark environment."

Bradenton Beach prohibits lights that can be seen from the seaside in order to avoid confusing the turtles during nesting season.

A sign on a beach.
Mark Schreiner
Turtle nesting season runs from May 1 to October 31.

Aileyahu Shanes is a WUSF Rush Family Radio News intern for the summer of 2024.