Key West police officer helps lost baby sea turtles go home


Key West police get stuck directing plenty of traffic on an island crawling with tourists.

In this case, though, the lost travelers weren’t some Midwesterners stumbling from bar to bar, or a bridal party due at the altar.

This was a batch of baby sea turtles that needed to find their way to the ocean for the first time, but instead were way off course at a Duval Street hotel.

A tiny turtle troop that hatched earlier on the Pier House Resort’s beach was found scampering across the wooden deck of the hotel’s restaurant, which was closed, instead of rushing toward the ocean, city spokeswoman Alyson Crean said.

Key West Police Officer Randy Perez arrived to make the turtle rescue Monday night at the Pier House, which sits beside the Gulf of Mexico.

A group of newborn baby sea turtles crawl across a restaurant’s deck in Key West on July 18, 2022. City of Key West

Working with the Key West Wildlife Center, Perez successfully directed the little ones safely to sea. In a video released Tuesday by Crean, the turtles are seen being gently spilled onto the sand from a bucket.

“Here you go, little guys,” Perez tells them. “Go, go, go.”

The officer then gives them step-by-step directions to the Gulf.

“No, wrong way, don’t go to the light,” Perez says. “Into the water.”

Perez said he was living out a dream to watch sea turtles hatch and walk to the ocean.

“These little guys just needed some help,” Perez said in a Facebook post on Tuesday.

In the comments, someone tells Perez that he gets to do all the cool stuff, and that he should visit the Turtle Hospital, a special veterinary hospital Marathon famous for saving injured or sick turtles.

“On my to-do list and we are hiring lol,” Perez replied.

Key West Police Officer Randy Perez guides baby sea turtles to the ocean on July 18, 2022. The group had hatched earlier on a beach and was scampering away from the ocean instead of toward it. City of Key West

Sea turtles, including several species of federally threatened and endangered ones, nest on Florida beaches between March to October, and it is illegal to harm, harass or take nesting sea turtles, their eggs or hatchlings.

Nesting turtles need privacy and also nights undisturbed by lights, which can disorient baby turtles emerging from their nests and nesting turtles coming ashore,

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reminds people yearly to not use flashlights or cell phone lights on the beach after dark. and to turn off lights or close curtains. People need to stay at least 50 feet away from nests, according to FWC.

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Profile Image of Gwen Filosa

Gwen Filosa covers Key West and the Lower Florida Keys for and the Miami Herald and lives in Key West. She was part of the staff at the New Orleans Times-Picayune that in 2005 won two Pulitzer Prizes for coverage of Hurricane Katrina. She graduated from Indiana University.

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