Sea Turtle Reef
Learn How You Can Save Endangered Sea Turtles

South Walton, Florida, is one of the most ecologically diverse destinations you’ll find in the US — or even the world. From our collection of rare coastal dune lakes to our large population of migratory bird species, our region is packed with all different types of wildlife.

South Walton’s unique ecosystem makes it a popular destination for tourists — as well as migratory animal species! One of South Walton’s favorite repeat visitors is the loggerhead sea turtle which comes to our sugar-white sand to nest from May through October.

Learn more about this rare and beautiful species below — and then learn what you can do to protect this precious turtle.

About the Loggerhead Turtle

Although South Walton Turtle Watch monitors and cares for all species of sea turtles in the area, the species encountered on our beaches the most is the loggerhead sea turtle. The loggerhead sea turtle is one of Florida’s most common turtle species but has been listed as an endangered species since the 1970s. Adult sea turtles can weigh up to 350 pounds and reach up to three feet in length. Loggerheads are known for their large heads and strong jaws. They eat other sea creatures like jellyfish, crabs and conchs.

Female loggerhead turtles nest once every two to four years. Interestingly, the females return to the exact same beach where they were born to lay their eggs. During each nesting season, a female will create four to seven nests and lay more than 100 eggs in each nest — usually actively nesting at night, and resting during the day. After 60 days, the eggs will hatch.

 

South Walton’s nesting season is May 1 through October 31. The light color of our sand affects the temperature of the turtles’ nests, ultimately leading to more male hatchlings than females.

Turtle Watch "Walkers" help rescue a female loggerhead turtle found stuck in a hole after artificial lighting disoriented her.

Why are the sea turtles endangered?

The loggerhead turtle continues to be endangered due to issues like pollution, shrimp trawling, predation of nests, accidental capture, development and construction. One of the most important factors contributing to turtle endangerment is coastal lighting, which can disturb and disrupt the nesting and hatching process.

What can I do to help?

If you see a loggerhead turtle, egg or nest in danger, contact the Walton County Sheriff at (850) 267-2000. Do not attempt to touch or assist the turtle yourself.

The best preventative measure you can take to keep sea turtles safe is to keep the beaches #CleanDarkFlat:

Loggerhead sea turtle in South Walton
   Holes are dangerous for nesting sea turtles
  1. Keep the beach clean. Follow the Walton County Leave No Trace ordinance. Trash and personal items left on the beach can endanger the turtles. 
  2. Keep the beaches dark at night by using Turtle Safe lights or not projecting artificial light on or near the sand. Such lighting can disorient turtles, leading to injury and death. If you need to use light on the beach at night, follow the Walton County Wildlife Lighting Ordinance or use a red-filtered light.
  3. Always obtain a bonfire permit before constructing a beach bonfire; and never build a bonfire near sea turtle nests.
  4. Don’t leave holes on the beach. Refill any holes you dig with sand so that the turtles can easily move across the beach.

About our partner South Walton Turtle Watch

Formed in 1995, South Walton Turtle Watch operates under a government-issued Marine Turtle Permit to monitor area sea turtles. Funded by Visit South Walton, Turtle Watch staff and volunteers work closely with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Sea Turtle Conservancy and Friends of South Walton Sea Turtles among others.

Turtle Watch works to make sure the nesting season runs as smoothly as possible. During the early mornings of nesting season, they walk the beach looking for female turtle tracks and new nests to count. During the 60-day development period, they monitor the progress of the nests and make sure the females are safe on the beach. When eggs hatch, they assist in getting any struggling turtles to the sea as safely as possible.

Learn more about how you can help below.