Our volunteers enjoyed the opportunity to celebrate World Ocean Day yesterday at Gulf World. We appreciate the opportunity to share information about sea turtles and what everyone can all do to help protect them.
One month into the season!
It’s been 1 month since the start of our Sea Turtle season. We are happy to report that we have 4 loggerhead nests marked for protection at this time!
Our surveyors search each morning for mother turtle tracks (ranging from 2-3 foot in width) and when they find a nest they temporarily mark it. They call our volunteers to come protect it with 4 stakes, survey/caution tape and signs indicating the area is protected under our FWC permit.
Sea turtles often nest overnight, if you encounter a nesting turtle on Panama City Beach, please immediately call the non-emergency Beach Police at 850-233-5000. They will forward your report to Turtle Watch volunteers who will respond to mark the nest.
Don’t shine lights on or around the turtle or take flash photos, and stay at least 30 feet away and not in her line of sight.
Please also leave the beach clean, dark and flat. PCB has a Leave No Trace ordinance allowing us to each do our part to help visitors of our beaches (including people and wildlife).
2023 Season is underway
Just in time for Mother’s Day our sea turtle mamas started arriving. We have now marked 2 nests on Panama City Beach for protection. Our surveyors and volunteers are looking forward to this season! Remember to keep our beaches clean, dark and flat.
Did you know that in Florida the only time a Sea Turtle will emerge from the water is if she is nesting, sick or injured?
If you encounter a sea turtle on our sandy beaches, call the Beach Police at 850-233-5000 and they will call us to respond.
2022 Season Recap – Volunteers
2022 Season Recap – Hatching
- 3175 hatchlings from 3865 eggs for an overall emergence success of 82%.
- Average loggerhead nest size was 104 eggs (ranging from 70-147 eggs).
- Average loggerhead incubation period was 63 days (ranging from 58-69 days).
- 131 hatchlings from 270 eggs (49%)
- Incubation of 65 and 67 days
- One of these nests was impacted by heavy rains yielding a very small amount of hatchling emergence.
2022 Season Recap – Nesting
Our 2022 Season (May – October) has come to a close. We’d like to take some time to reflect on our season and provide some figures and facts that may be of interest.
This year we had 44 nests and 28 false crawls (a non-nesting emergence).
Of the 44 nests, 42 were made by loggerheads and 2 by greens. Of the 28 false crawls, 27 were loggerheads and one was a green. Our 2022 nests spanned the entire 18 mile stretch of our beach from Moonspinner Condos on the east end to Pinnacle Port Condos on the west end.
PCB Turtle Watch has been monitoring since 1991 and while this was not the most nests in a season on our beach, it is in the top 7 years (the most nests in a season was 57 in 2017) and was significantly more than the 27 nests laid in 2021.
Stay tuned for more data points/facts about our 2022 season.
Pictured: Nest 44, a Green sea turtle nest; greens often nest near or in the dunes
Busy Hatching Season Slowing Down
Our volunteers stayed very busy the last few weeks. We had many nests hatch and continued to experience severe hatchling disorientation. We have conducted many excavations and in most cases have found good hatch success rate. Most recently we were impacted by storms and heavy rains that washed over (or washed out) a couple nests. We also had 2 nests that suffered the effects of extreme and rapid rainfall resulting in some deceased hatchlings being found during excavation. While that is difficult to witness, there is nothing we could have done differently and sea turtles have evolved to lay multiple nests in a season with the expectation that not all eggs will make it.
Over the next month our volunteers will continue to monitor a few viable nests that remain on the beach but the rapid hatching and excavations are behind us for our 2022 season. Stay tuned to see how we finish out the season and if we’ll break the 3K hatchling mark!
Excavation process with many hatched eggs, depression with tracks from 2 green hatchlings, a hatched and unhatched egg with a nest chamber in the background.
Half way with over 2K Hatchlings
We are thrilled to have reached our 2022 half way point!
Of our 44 nests we have had 22 of them hatch, all loggerhead so far. Our volunteers and surveyors have been hard at work checking for hatchlings of which we have accounted for over 2100 hatchlings! The majority of our hatches have experienced disorientation meaning the turtles did not head to the water, they went in the wrong direction where they will waste valuable energy. When we find this happening, we collect the hatchlings and take them to a dark beach to release them into the Gulf.
You can do your part to help by turning off exterior lights, closing blinds to limit interior light visible from the beach and keep the beach clean and flat.
We have also been conducting excavations per our FWC permit where we have experienced good success rate. If you are a Facebook user, tune into our page Panama City Beach Turtle Watch to check out our live coverage of excavations. Better yet, join us in person and get a chance to see hatched eggs, unhatched eggs and possibly a live hatchling that may still be in the chamber.
Lights cause disorientation (MTP-271)
Hatchlings found during an excavation, later released into the Gulf (MTP-038)
Our Panama City Beach Turtle Watch program contributes our nesting and hatching data to FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute as they track the Florida sea turtle nesting. So far the 2022 Sea Turtle nesting season is going well both local to PCB and statewide! We have marked 44 nests this year so far and still checking through mid September for any new nests. We are well into our hatching season, stay tuned to our counter to see it continue to increase, especially for hatchlings!
Recently FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute shared:
“How’s the 2022 sea turtle nesting season going in Florida?
GOOD NEWS! Preliminary statewide totals for sea turtles nesting on Florida beaches indicate the 2022 nesting season is very good for loggerhead and leatherback turtles. As of July 31st, 111,851 loggerhead nests and 1756 leatherback nests have been documented, these numbers are higher than the entire 2021 nesting season! It looks like the same forecast is also in store for the green turtle nest count with 24,577 nests as of July 31st, and we still have two months of heavy green turtle nesting ahead.
Thanks to all the FWRI partners involved in an outstanding community science effort to document sea turtle nesting activity statewide!”
Our volunteers have been super busy doing what they were trained to do…monitor nests and rescue any disoriented hatchlings.
The start of our hatching season could be described as a hatchling frenzy. We have had 8 nests hatch. Unfortunately, they have all been disoriented meaning the hatchlings didn’t make it to the water unassisted. When they emerged they headed toward the brightest horizon. In all cases so far, the hatchlings were disoriented by beachfront lighting. Either drawing them directly to the dunes or leaving them walking great distances from the nest before making it to the water or being collected. Disorientation causes them to waste energy and makes them more susceptible to predators.
You can help by turning off exterior lights and closing blinds/curtains at night. Fortunately, our volunteers have been present or arrived shortly after the hatch and have collected the disoriented hatchlings so they could be released on a dark beach.
If you encounter a sea turtle hatchling keep an eye on it and please contact Beach Police at 850-233-5000 and they will call us to respond.
We have also been busy excavating the hatched nests 3-4 nights after they hatch. This allows us to assess the nest contents and determine the hatch success. Several nests have had a straggler or two in the chamber that was collected during the excavation and released later that night on a dark beach. If you would like to attend an excavation or watch it online, please follow Panama City Beach Turtle Watch on Facebook.
Photo: Loggerhead hatchlings recovered during a recent nest excavation and released that night.
Photo taken as part of MTP-038.