Jeremy and I quickly ran over to her and got some quick measurements along with tagging her. We were hoping that she would come back sooner or later because we assumed she just wasn’t ready to lay her eggs. We would be able to tell if it was the same turtle because of the tags we put on her. After this we continued our patrol and around 11:00 she came back! The odd thing was that she started to do the same thing. This time I went up to go check her out and on her second try at digging a hole I was examining her and I noticed she only had one back flipper! I had never seen something like that before, but Jeremy had seen one like her on a similar internship the previous summer.
Since she was unable to dig the hole herself, which we assumed from watching her try over and over again, I got down on my knees and started helping her whenever she started digging with the missing flipper. It was amazing to see how engrained the methods of nesting were in her head. She would use her right flipper, which was the one still there, and dig. Then she would switch and start to move the little nub of a flipper she still had and acted like she was digging. She honestly thought it was there. I couldn’t stop myself from laughing because of how she would stretch it out and after pretend to flip sand away with it. After a while of me digging though she must have caught on that the hole was being dug by something because she would reach with her right flipper and “pretend” to dig with that one as well. It was hilarious to see her do this because I wouldn’t have ever expected her to just let me do all the work. I didn’t mind because I was having a blast just looking at her.
From the look of the wound it was healed completely and nicely as well! Her shell was really messed up also so it could have been a boat or a shark that hurt her. I’m just glad she wasn’t still bleeding. I would have been able to handle it better than the dissections because I wouldn’t be looking at internal organs, but still, it wouldn’t have been fun.
After her hole was dug she laid her eggs and was able to cover them easily as well. After this large fiasco that lasted over an hour we continued our patrol and had two more turtle nests last night! The largest amount we’ve had in one night all summer! Both of them had four flippers too! It was a very busy night of tagging, measuring, and covering nests with cages.