Sarasota police Officer Derek Conley is likely used to rounding up suspects, but over the weekend he had to round up baby turtles.
According to police, Conley, 38, was on patrol when he saw the hatchlings walking toward the front door of the Lido Beach Resort, 700 Ben Franklin Drive in Sarasota.
“They were coming into the front door, into the hotel itself,” Conley told a news conference this afternoon. He said he supposed since it was dark the lights inside the hotel were attracting them.
A visitor alerted Conley to more turtles in the parking lot. He said he had a “moment of indecision” after seeing all the hatchlings.
“You’re not really expecting to see anything like this ... and you don’t necessarily know what to do,” he said, “but common sense kind of kicked in for all of us.”
Conley, two hotel security officers and two guests from North Carolina got some boxes and began to collect the hatchlings from the parking lot, as well as others on the sidewalk and road — even stopping traffic several times during the rescue.
Police say Conley and the guests recovered 70 hatchlings, which were released successfully into the water, before collecting more in the parking lot.
In all, Conley said that over an hour and a half 90 to 100 hatchlings were recovered and released, with three found dead.
Sea turtles commonly nest on area beaches from May 1 to Oct. 31.
Conley said wildlife officials told him that under the circumstances he did the right thing, though normally touching the federally protected species is forbidden. Anyone who finds disoriented sea turtles is asked to contact their local law enforcement agency.