PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Tyndall Air Force Base beaches are teeming with turtles.
The 325th Civil Engineer Squadron’s Natural Resources Office and Tyndall Turtle Trackers reported a record-breaking nesting season with 131 nests laid on their beaches. They haven’t seen this many nests since 2007 when they surveyed 117 nests.
“We had 83 loggerhead nests, which is our typical nester here,” said Tyndall Natural Resources Wildlife & Biological Technician Becki Johnson. “Then we also have greens. Our previous record for green sea turtles was 19 nests. This year we have 48, so it’s a really good year for us and for our turtles.”
Trackers began surveying 18 miles of Tyndall beaches in May for signs of nesting. They survey the beach every day during the season looking for new nests and making sure existing ones aren’t disturbed. Each nest takes 60 days to incubate before the sea turtles hatch and make their way to the Gulf.
“She’ll drop about 80 to 100 eggs if it’s a loggerhead. Greens are typically closer to 115 eggs. Then she’ll cover that back up with her rear flippers and then camouflage it by fluffing sand over it with her front flippers,” said Johnson.
After the turtles hatch, trackers take inventory of how many eggs were laid and hatched from each nest. While they’ve experienced problems with some nests this year, Johnson says she expects a successful hatching season.
“We’ve had most of our nests be very successful. We had a little bit of flooding from Idalia when that hurricane came through and caused some storm surges and some flooding on the beach and stuff. We lost a few nests to that.”
Johnson said they also lost some nests to predators, such as coyotes, digging into the sand and eating the eggs.
It’s important beach-goers do their part to prevent putting sea turtles at risk, too. Fill any holes dug in the sand so the turtles don’t fall in while going towards the water, limit light exposure on the beach at night so turtles don’t become disoriented when looking for the water, and always pick up your trash.