Goodbye Radar!

If you are a parent, surely you’ve shared this experience:  One day your child is a helpless infant, dependent on you for food, shelter, safety and comfort.  Then it seems that the next day, that same child has grown up, is independent and no longer needs you every minute of the day.  To some degree, similar changes happened with our Kemp’s Ridley turtle, “Radar.” 

 About 5 months ago, in November 2011, Radar was captured in Pine Island Sound as part of ongoing studies by the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and Mote Marine Laboratory.  The Turtle Club on Vanderbilt Beach in Naples sponsored the satellite transmitter with which Radar was outfitted, and Mick was able to help with her release near the capture site.  After 146 days, during which we all were able to view her whereabouts, Radar was unintentionally recaptured during marine turtle netting surveys. She was fine, but her transmitter and flipper tags were encrusted with barnacles.  So Radar temporarily was held at Mote's Charlotte Harbor field station while her transmitter and tags were cleaned, then she was re-released in the Pine Island Sound.  After this second release, however, no further locations were received from her transmitter, and the scientists at the Conservancy and Marine Laboratory believe that the batteries in the transmitter may have run out of power.  Sadly, this means that we will no longer be able to track Radar’s location.

 But we at the hotel – and the scientists at the Conservancy and Mote Marine Laboratory – can find the silver lining to this lost transmitter “cloud”!  Radar provided the scientists with one of their longest tracks to date, and her satellite tag transmitted 2,102 locations!  In addition, the fact that she stayed in the Pine Island Sound area during her entire tracking interval provided priceless information to scientists.  First, from October 2011 through January 2012, a red tide bloom was occurring near Sanibel Island. While a bloom is never good news for sea life, and this one was the largest in the area since 2006, Radar’s behavior during the bloom gave those scientists studying her new information about Kemp’s Ridley’s migration patterns during unexpected occurrences like this.  Second, the water temperature in the Sound dropped substantially in early January but it apparently did not drop low enough to prompt Radar to undergo a seasonal migration, as another Kemp’s Ridley had done the previous year. The effect of the water temperature on Radar’s  migratory behavior also gives scientists important information regarding marine turtle migrations within the Gulf of Mexico and the effects of climate change on those migration patterns.

The Gulf waters near Naples are home to many sea turtles, as well as dolphins, manatees and other marine life.  It is not uncommon to sea dolphins on a daily basis in front of the hotel or to see a small sea turtle head break the surface while paddleboarding on a flat sea.  Guests at the hotel often joke that we should sponsor a marine show and charge admission!  Fortunately for us, marine life is so abundant near the hotel that we all get to watch the perpetual show for free. 

 So while we still are sad to see Radar’s transmitter go and while we still are sad not to have the opportunity to continue to track her locations, we are grateful to have had the chance to experience a slice of Radar’s life over the past 5 months.  And there still is more to come!  The Turtle Club Restaurant plans to sponsor another turtle in the fall of 2012 as part of research on the movements and migrations of Kemp’s Ridleys in the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary.  Please stay tuned for more information on the next turtle sponsored by the Turtle Club on Vanderbilt Beach!

-Diane Moore


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