In the summertime, when the weather is warm, pregnant female sea turtles return to Gulf County beaches.
They swim through the crashing surf and crawl up the beach before settling on a nesting spot above the high water mark.
Then, using their back flippers, the turtles dig nests in the sand and slowly drag themselves back to the ocean, leaving trails in their wake.
Starting May 1, the first day of sea turtle nesting season, the Florida Coastal Conservancy beging to patrol the beaches every morning, searching for the telltale path of disturbed sand.
On May 9, they took to Facebook to announce a discovery.
“Today we celebrate the arrival of our first nest of the season, and we’re extra excited that this momma turtle visited us on Mother’s Day night,” They wrote in a post. “A big thank you to our beachgoers for leaving a clean, flat, and dark path for her – keep up the great work to help all of our mommas and babies to come.”
The nest was laid by a loggerhead turtle, the most common species of nesting turtle in Florida.
Sea turtles require flat, clean and dark conditions to lay their nests, which the conservancy said can be difficult to maintain as human development encroaches on the shoreline.
They are encouraging locals and tourists to leave no trace after visiting county beaches – which includes removing all items from the beach at night, filling in any holes and turning off any unnecessary lighting.
Nests discovered by the conservancy are roped off to prevent human interference. Each year, the organization keeps track of thousands of hatchlings, with each individual turtle laying up to 100 eggs.
The eggs are expected to begin hatching around June.
Several species of endangered sea turtle regularly nest on Florida Panhandle beaches, including the loggerhead, the green turtle and the leatherback. Only permitted turtle patrol volunteers are legally allowed to touch a sea turtle nest or hatchling. Violators of this law face significant fines.
Those interested in becoming a turtle patrol volunteer are encouraged to contact FCC at [email protected].