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Sea Turtle Update After Hurricane Isaac

August 31, 2012 by Marla Burns

Before Hurricane Isaac passed by SoWal on his way to New Orleans, South Walton’s sea turtle nests (not including nests in the State Parks) numbered 96, which was a record for our area. Since the start of this year’s turtle nesting season, there were 59 nests that had either hatched or been dug for evaluation before Isaac. Tropical Storm Debbie had previously washed away 3 nests.

South Walton Turtle Watch Group (SWTWG) has been doing everything they could do, within the guidelines of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, to ensure the survival of as many hatchlings as possible. They brave high surf, heavy rain, and winds, sometimes at great risk to themselves, in order to protect the threatened and endangered species of turtles that nest on Walton County beaches.

High surf from Isaac has completely washed away 11 nests. One nest was washing away when some of the eggs were found and reburied. Another nest that had not been washed over hatched successfully this morning (8/28/12). Sixteen nests have had water over them, which can be devastating to the eggs. We don’t know how long they were under water, but the longer the water covers them, the less likely they are to hatch. Only 5 other nests were high enough up the beach to avoid the relentless surf, and will hopefully be successful hatchings. That remains to be seen.

Regardless of the outcome, SWTWG continues to walk the beaches of South Walton every single day of the remaining nesting season, watching for signs of nest hatchings. We remain hopeful that 2012 will still be our most successful season to date.

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Marla Burns

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