Cop Saves Turtles: Officer Derek Conley Rescues 100 Endangered Baby Sea Turtles From Florida Parking Lot [VIDEO]

By Philip Ross on August 9, 2013 12:56 PM EDT

cop saves turtles
A cop saves turtles in Florida, releasing them into the Gulf of Mexico. (Photo: Reuters)

A cop saves turtles from meeting a possibly ill-fated end in a parking lot in Florida. Hero Officer Derek Conley showed that not all cops are hardwired for hardnosed law enforcement when he strayed from his regular duties to rescue 100 endangered baby sea turtles and return them to bluer pastures. The cop saves turtles is a story of compassion as much as it is a heartwarming tale of sea turtle rescue.

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ABC 7 reports that Officer Conley was patrolling the Lido Beach Resort in Sarasota, a city on the western coast of Florida, around 1:00 a.m. when he noticed sea turtle hatchlings making a beeline for the resort's front door.

That's when someone told the cop there were more sea turtles loose in the parking lot. After grabbing a cardboard box, Conley and two security guards started scooping up the sea turtle hatchlings, lest they be harmed by an inadvertent car tire or pedestrian.

"I began collecting hatchlings from the street and stopped traffic several times to do so," wrote Conley in a report about the cop saves turtles incident. 

Conley also snapped some pics of the sea turtle rescue, "to let [my supervisors] know what I was doing for an hour and a half while I was on the beach," he said in a press conference.

The officer made sure the hatchlings were safely returned to the Gulf of Mexico where they belong.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida is home to five different kinds of sea turtles.

The most common species of Florida sea turtle is the loggerhead turtle, which is named for its large, block-shaped head. Loggerheads are one of the larger sea turtles in the wild, with adults reaching an average of 275 pounds with a shell reaching 3 feet in length. It feeds on clams, crabs and other ocean bottom dwellers.

Florida's sandy beaches are prime real estate for sea turtle nesting. Sea turtles begin their nesting in May and continue until October. Females emerge from the ocean at night to lay their eggs -- usually about 100 at a time -- in the sand, where the eggs incubate for 60 days.

The Guardian reports that when baby sea turtles hatch, usually at night, they instinctually move towards the brightest object they can see. On a beach, this is often the light of the moon on the water's surface. But in the case of the sea turtles in Sarasota, the hotel's light could've confused the baby turtles and led them to the front door instead.

Florida's sea turtle populations are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act and the Florida Marine Protection Act. Florida state law makes it illegal to touch or disturb nesting sea turtles, their hatchlings or their nests.

When the cop saved the turtles, it was technically unlawful for him to do so. But we don't think anyone will be holding the hero cop's actions against him. Only one in every 1,000 sea turtles survives to adulthood in the wild.

Buzz 60 reports on the cop saves turtles incident in Florida in this video uploaded to YouTube:

Read more from iScience Times:

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