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Turtle watchers reach out, spread awareness

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If you think you have found an unmarked nest or a hatchling that has strayed from the waterline, call Turtle Watch 24 hrs a day at (941) 778-5638 or (941) 232-1405.

Door hangers, stickers, bracelets and even temporary tattoos are making an appearance to protect sea turtles and shorebirds nesting on Anna Maria Island.

Nesting season is underway and Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring (AMITW) is informing the public of necessary precautions.

AMITW, a nonprofit with volunteers who monitor the island shore May-October to document nesting activity, is distributing materials and making educational presentations to people of all ages.

AMITW executive director Suzi Fox said it is imperative to educate local youth: “The kids talk with their parents and then grow up to be the future caretakers of our environment.”

Fox and AMITW volunteers recently visited Anna Maria Elementary School in Holmes Beach to present a lesson on sea turtles and shorebirds. They brought models of injured turtles and assigned the “junior biologists” to diagnose the problems exhibited.

AMITW then took the students to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium rehabilitation facility to experience the work done to save injured turtles.

Fox said, “The kids were thrilled! It was truly magical.”

Funding for the field trip was provided by a grant from the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce.