Sea Turtle nesting season has begun for South Walton and officials say they are ready

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SOUTH WALTON Fla. (WMBB) — Sea Turtle nesting season has begun in the Panhandle and will run until October.

Starting May 1, surveyors will be on the beach early every morning looking for tracks and nests.

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“We expect to see turtles any day now,” said South Walton Turtle Watch Area and Public Relations Coordinator Barbara Van Stavern.

Van Stavern said staff and volunteers with SWTW have started surveying beaches every morning, right after sunrise, searching for tracks leading to nests.

“And know just based on the characteristics, what kind of sea turtle made which tracks,” she said.

Volunteers will mark off areas where nests are located all across the beach. Sometimes those nests are in the high dunes, whereas other times they could be in the middle of the beach.

“All of our beaches, private or non-private, are nesting habitats, so we can all take part in our responsibility in creating a safe environment for these turtles to come in and lay their eggs,” said Van Stavern. “They’ve been doing this way before we were ever here. So we need to respect that. And give them their environment and their safe habitat to lay those eggs.”

Officials are encouraging beachgoers to leave no trace by making sure the beaches are left dark, clean, and flat before they head home for the day. They are asking if you notice anything out of place, including fencing or trash, do your part and pick it up.

“It’s critical to get all those things removed from the beach now, said Van Stavern. “If those turtles get caught up and become entangled, that could be extremely dangerous for them and could be fatal for them as well, especially if they get tangled up as well and take that with them back out to the water.”

If you spot a stranded sea mammal, make sure to call the South Walton Turtle Watch group or the Florida Fish and Wildlife before you assist in any way.

“There is a reason they are here. The most important thing to remember is, never push an animal back and help it,” said Van Stavern. “I know there are a lot of good-intentioned people that think, let’s help this animal and push it back into the water. That is actually the last thing you need to do.”

Finally, officials said you can help protect the nesting turtles by using amber lighting on beachfront patios. If you crab hunt at night, choose to use a red flashlight instead to minimize distractions for any turtles who may have swum ashore to nest.

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