04-13-2009, 08:26 AM #1
Sea Turtle Season 2009 - SoWal Turtle Watch & More Info
South Walton Turtle Watch prepares for new season
According to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, sea turtles, are among the oldest creatures on earth, and have remained essentially unchanged for 110 million years.
However, they face an uncertain future. Illegal harvesting, habitat encroachment, and pollution (physical and light) are only some of the things sea turtles must face as each species struggles to stay alive.
We are fortunate to have a local group of dedicated volunteers, South Walton Turtle Watch, who monitor our beaches on a daily basis during the turtle season.
Led my Sharon Maxwell, the group was formed in 1995. There are 40 members, which 25 have state-issued permits. The volunteers walk the beach in the early morning hours, and have a designated area each monitors for turtle tracks and nests.
Leather back turtle nest with tracks.
It is a complicated process once a nest is discovered. First, it must be determined that it is a true nest and not a false crawl. The tracks are measured and it is determined by the size and markings what type of turtle it is. If a nest is too close to the tide line, it must be moved to prevent the drowning of the eggs. Then there is a barricade constructed to mark off and protect the nest. And it is all done before 9 a.m.
The group continues to monitor each nest until the hatchlings emerge and head into the Gulf of Mexico.
“We, as sea turtle volunteers, go through many hours of training so that we may help these wonderful sea turtles. We are learning more each year. That is why we can get sea turtle permits, which allows us to help the endangered and threatened animals,” Maxwell said.
With each attempted nesting, the turtles face an uphill battle. Problems with visitors erecting tents and digging holes, creates confusion for the female attempting to nest, or in some instances, death if she falls into a hole dug by a careless visitor.
From Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission:
Each year from May 1 - October 31, there are four species of Florida sea turtles that nest along the beach in South Walton County – Loggerhead, Green, Leatherback and on occasion, Kemp’s Ridley.
For detailed information on each species go to: http://research.myfwc.com/features/v...le.asp?id=5182
Green and loggerhead turtle hatchlings.
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.
It is illegal to harm, harass or kill any sea turtles, their eggs, or hatchlings. If you find hatchlings wandering in a road, parking lot, or in a direction other than toward the water, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at (888) 404-FWCC or *FWC from your mobile phone.
How can you help nesting sea turtles?
If you see a sea turtle, it is important to stay out of the sea turtle’s way. Do not put your hands on or near the turtle. Any distractions may frighten or disorient the turtle, causing a female to return to the ocean before finishing her nest.
If you own beach-front property, please remove obstacles on the beach which may impede the slow travel of these huge animals as they make their way up to the dune line to nest. Remove beach chairs, tables, water-sport items and any other obstacles. After nesting, be considerate of the hatchlings and make sure that they have a path to the water when it is time for them to hatch.
A lot of people like to dig holes in the sand. These are fine during the day but may pose additional hazards at night. Please refill these holes so that sea turtles and hatchlings do not get caught on their way to nest or to the water.
Keep waterways clean by properly throwing away any trash, plastic or beach gear that you no longer want. Debris that blows into or is drawn into the water by the tides causes potential hazards for marine life. Some of the plastics may be mistaken for jelly fish, which some sea turtles eat. Other items may entangle animals if they swim through any holes in the debris or get items wrapped around flippers, tails or wings. Practice conservation efforts by cleaning up the beach or a waterway any time you visit—all wildlife will benefit from this service.
What do you do if you see hatchlings on the beach or disoriented hatchlings heading away from the beach?
Hatchlings must overcome many obstacles in their natural habitat to successfully reach adulthood. After hatching, they must dig out of their nest, a process that may take a few days. Once out, predators feed on them, and any misdirection may leave them lost and, soon, dehydrated by the morning sun. Enjoy the experience from a distance. Do not make it any more difficult for sea turtles to survive. Please do not “help” them to the water—they need to make the trek on their own.
If you come across a hatchling that is wandering in a road, parking lot; or in a direction other than the water call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Resource Alert numbers at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922) or *FWC from your cell phone.
For more information about sharing the beach with nesting turtles and hatchlings go to:
The South Walton Turtle Watch needs walkers for the upcoming Sea Turtle Season, which begins in May. Walkers are asked to commit to one day a week in the area of your choice. Training is being done on April 8 in Panama City Beach and also by area coordinators. Turtle watch is responsible for all non state park beach areas in Walton County. For more information please contact Sharon Maxwell (850) 897-5228 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about our local sea turtles visit: www.seaturtlewatch.com
A local company has created innovative flashlight filters to help protect the turtles from distracting light. Check out the company’s website at: http://turtlesafeproducts.com
Lori Ceier is the publisher of WaltonOutdoors.com, an online zine about outdoor life in Walton County. She can be reached via email at: email@example.comWaltonOutdoors.com
Your source for the outdoors in Walton County and surrounding area.
Thanks Lori - this is great info for turtle season - I am going to make it a sticky and we can post more info here.
Nesting season in the Panhandle "officially" begins once the gulf water temperature hits a specific level that triggers turtles. This usually happens in the first couple weeks of May, so it won't be long before you see people daily walking beaches just as the sun is thinking about rising. They are like the postal service.
"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds"
The Following User Says Thank You to ASH For This Useful Post:
04-14-2009, 11:37 AM #4
I gave my nephews the book Where Do Sea Turtles Go? for Easter! They are adopting a turtle to track and are so excited to learn about these wonderful creatures!! Thanks for posting this article...we all need a reminder about our responsibilities.
04-14-2009, 06:12 PM #5
This is a bit off topic, but I have always liked the print/poster of the sowal turtle watch that appears on the top of these pages. Is this a print/poster that I can order?
The Following User Says Thank You to Ohio Girl For This Useful Post:
05-12-2009, 12:30 PM #6
I'm just wondering, is there any information about number of turtle deaths on our beaches? I am very interested in any information about how they may have died ex: died in hole, someone crushed egg, died after washing up on beach, etc...also after you find a dead turtle, is it ever determined what caused the death? I'm hoping that you have a lot of this information that you might be willing to share. My main interest is in Walton County. Would be appreciative for anything you may be willing to share specific to this area. Is there a web site available that has this information about Walton County? Thank You.
05-12-2009, 12:58 PM #7
Another question please---I would think this pertains to the turtles: Why wouldn't the TDC remove trees from the water (rolling up and down on the shore) or on the beach without someone calling it in, I'm sure they see these things. Seems like it would pose a danger in or out of the water for the turtles, as well as people. TDC had been informed about the one on Blue Mtn, not sure about the one at the Palms. I'm sure the turtle watch people pass it everyday. Just curious. Thanks again.
The local website for Walton County is www.seaturtlewatch.com
You can see where nests are found and later in the season, what the results are such as made it to the water, found dead in the nest, undeveloped egg, etc.
Any dead turtles get a necropsy as research into cause of death. Where this gets published, I am unsure.
The Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge also is a good source for local information. Their website is www.ecwildliferefuge.com
As far as the trees, I would think this is a natural occurance on beaches mankind has never set foot on and merely part of the natural environment. It might take interferring with safety or emergancy vehicles before much effort would go into removal.Anthony
It would be best to contact turtle watch directly for answers - I do know that they track the number of hatchlings, nests, species, and dig up the nests after the hatch to count unhatched eggs and renourishment projects are required to track how many turtles are killed (after X, they have to stop).
Seeing a turtle nest hatch is one of the coolest things ever!
Once you see those little guys valiantly trying to make it to the ocean you realize just how difficult any holes, chairs, and trash make it for them!
05-12-2009, 02:04 PM #10
Thank you both, I appreciate the information and will do some additional research.
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