ST. PETERSBURG BEACH, Fla. – Well, you could say the turtle hatchlings found one source of water – just not the right one.
The 911 call came early Tuesday morning after about 100 uninvited guests crashed a Florida beachside hotel.
"[They were] all over the area, including in the hotel’s pool, in the bushes, in the bathroom and even in the storm drain," said Sergeant Mackesy of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
The hotel security guard noticed the eggs of the protected sea turtles hatching on St. Petersburg Beach. But, the hatchlings charged toward him and the hotel pool instead of heading into the surf of the Gulf of Mexico as nature had intended.
The guard frantically began picking the tiny reptiles to return them to the sea, but after 15 rescues, he realized he was overrun and called the police for backup.
Law enforcement arrived on the scene to assess the turtle riot. Body cam video on the sergeant and two deputies caught the "apprehension" of at least 100 baby sea turtles who were put in a holding cell, aka bucket.
"Ready? Go, little dudes. Not you, wrong way – nope, nope, wrong way," Mackesy’s said to the wrong way turtles. "Go little babies. Keep going. Follow your friends."
The sergeant called an officer with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for rescue instructions.
"He said put them on the water's edge, not in the water," Mackesy advised the deputies. "Point [the flashlight] out there. Keep shining it that way. If you turn the light, they all turn towards it."
The three lawmen emptied the bucket and shined their lights across the sand, looking for escapees.
"Is that the last one? Did we get everybody?" asked Mackesy looking around. "Bye, babies."
The hatchlings can become disoriented when they break out of the shell and see artificial light.
"Our development and our buildings are brighter than the ocean, and sometimes it confuses the turtles, and they crawl the wrong way," Stephanie Roche, Broward County Environmental Project Coordinator, told FOX Weather.
Instinctively, they crawl away from the darkest areas (usually the silhouette of a sand dune) to the brightest area (usually stars above the sea or the moon). The deputies' flashlights gave the turtles an artificial moon in the water to swim to.
NOAA reports that there are six species of sea turtles found in the US, and all are protected by the Endangered Species Act.
"Only one in 5,000 sea turtles makes it in our oceans to adulthood," Betty Zirkelbach, manager of The Turtle Hospital, told FOX Weather.
Sea turtles spend their youth in the open ocean foraging, then return to the beaches where they were hatched to breed. Males hit maturity around 20 and females around 35.
Ladies breed every two to three years. They dig a hole in the sand and lay their eggs. Every two weeks, they lay about 100 eggs per nest. In a season, have three to five nests.
The mother takes off. After about two months, the eggs hatch and the little reptile heads for the water, hopefully. September generally marks the end of nesting season.