The 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.
Turtle Nesting Season: MAY 1st UNTIL OCTOBER 31st
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.
Volunteers now include night walkers, monitoring potential lighting problems that cause lighting disorientation to hatchlings. Disorientation results in many hatchling deaths each year.
South Walton Turtle Watch needs your help. If you would like to walk the beach, or if you see a sea turtle, or sea turtle tracks, please call Sharon Maxwell at 897-5228, or call the Florida Marine Patrol, at 1-800-342-5367.
“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 a sea turtle permit which allows us to help endangered and threatened animals.” -Sharon Maxwell
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.