Sea Turtle Nesting Season 2020 Underway in SoWal
May 4, 2020 by SoWal Staff
May brings the start of sea turtle nesting season on the Gulf coast in South Walton Florida. Thank you for keeping all of our beaches #CleanDarkFlat all season long!
During the months of May through October, endangered sea turtles build nests in the sand and hatchlings make their way to the Gulf. The two most common species of turtles that nest in South Walton are Green Sea Turtles and Loggerheads. In the late spring and early summer, female sea turtles that hatched along South Walton beaches return to build their own nests. Later in the summer and in the early fall, the turtle eggs in the nests begin to hatch.
South Walton Turtle Watch is a group of volunteers whose purpose is to locate endangered and threatened sea turtle nests and to protect them along the beaches of NW Florida during the crucial nesting and hatching season. By law, Only certified members are allowed to interact with endangered sea turtles.
Friends of South Walton Sea Turtles is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the importance of nurturing and protecting sea life along the beaches and rare coastal dune lakes of South Walton County in the panhandle of Florida. Through education, the organization seeks to increase awareness of the delicate balance that exists between the land and the sea. Every creature has a purpose to fulfill, and it must be preserved.
The first sea turtle nest in Walton County is usually found around the third week in May. The nests are found by walking the beach early in the morning and looking for tracks left by the female when she comes ashore to nest. The tracks look like large tractor tracks that begin and end at the water line.
Nests are also monitored after eggs have been laid. Once a nest’s eggs hatch it is excavated 72 hours later, and any hatchlings left in the nest are released to the open sea. Empty egg shells are counted, and all conditions of the nest cavity are reported to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
The heart and soul of the South Walton Turtle Watch are the tireless, dedicated volunteers who walk the beach at dawn looking for tracks of sea turtles that came from the sea during the night to nest. Nests and false crawls are documented. Turtle Watch volunteers also monitor hatching nests, documenting the success rate.
Sea turtles are protected by the Endangered Species Act and only those with special permits are allowed to touch the nests, turtles, or hatchlings. There is a $2,500.00 reward for information leading to the conviction of violators. To report a violation, contact a State, Federal, or local law enforcement officer.
Female Sea Turtles that were born on the white sandy beaches always come back to nest on white sandy beaches. The beaches are white because they are primarily made up of quartz with very little or no shell deposits in them. When you walk on this sand, it sings to you or squeaks. This is a treat. The sea turtles’ tracks on this sand show up differently than on other darker sand beaches. Because the sun reflects off this white sand the sand does not get as hot as darker beaches, this fact also effects sea turtles.
The number of days it takes for the eggs to hatch are longer than on darker beaches and because the temperature of the sand effects the sex of the hatchlings, this means that these white sandy beaches produce more male sea turtle hatchlings. The fact that the ones hatched on these beaches come back makes it our duty to protect these wonderful creature in any way we can.
The Loggerhead sea turtle that has hatched on these white sandy beaches is a sub population of the worlds Loggerheads and there are not many left. Sea turtles as a group have been on our earth since Dinosaur time.
SoWal Insider Tip: seek out the spectacular new "Sea Turtle Bale" garden and sculptures in Alys Beach on the south side of Scenic 30A.