(CNN) — A large loggerhead sea turtle was killed when she wandered onto a busy Florida highway while looking for a spot to lay her eggs. But researchers rescued 70 of her eggs intact and buried them in hopes they will hatch normally.
The turtle was struck by at least one vehicle early Wednesday morning on State Road A1A in Brevard County, according to Erin Seney, an assistant research scientist with the University of Central Florida Marine Research Group.
It had attempted to dig several nest chambers on a beach in Brevard County before the accident but was unsuccessful because she had injuries to her rear flipper, Seney told CNN.
“We know this because the turtles are heavy and they leave very clear tracks and other signs in the sand,” Seney said. “She emerged from the ocean, crawled up towards the landward part of the beach and attempted to dig several, several nests.”
The turtle made its way up a sandy ramp into someone’s yard and then crossed a driveway before reaching the road.
Seney said the turtle may have been confused by lights coming from the road or was focused on finding better sand to dig her nest.
She said she’s never heard of a loggerhead sea turtle being killed by a car, but they have made it to the road on very rare occasions.
After consulting with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, they buried the eggs in the sand to incubate in an artificial nest.
Seney said the eggs were fertilized and there is a good chance that they will hatch normally in about 50-55 days. Baby sea turtles have to fend for themselves once they hatch, so they wouldn’t need the mother to care for them.
The zoo took the dead turtle away and arranged for it to be cremated, she said.
“For how big she was, she could be 50 to 60 years old. The chances of her surviving this long are very slim,” Patterson told WKMG.
This turtle had been tagged by the UCF Marine Research Group in 2014, Seney said.
“We don’t want to see any unnecessary turtle mortality, but it hurts a little more because it was a tagged turtle that we have a bit of history on,” Seney said.
Loggerhead turtles are the most common species of sea turtles in Florida and typically nest there between April and September, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Seney said that the season is off to a good start, and they are seeing a steady increase in the number of loggerhead nests.
They turtles are protected under the Endangered Species Act and have nine distinct population segments that are listed as endangered or threatened.