The Panhandle gears up for turtle season

sharon maxwell

South Walton Turtle Watch head Sharon Maxwell attended the turtle training in Panama City on Wednesday.

Deborah Wheeler | The Sun
Published: Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 04:45 PM.

Turtle walkers from the area and turtle walker-wannabes gathered in Panama City on Tuesday morning for training to be able to walk this coming turtle season.

Statewide, turtle season is from March to October. Due to our cooler waters and sand, in the Northwest Florida Panhandle, turtle season is from May 1 to Aug. 31.

The state is a nesting home to five different species of turtles: the Loggerhead, Green, Leatherback, Kemp Ridley, and Hawkbill. The Loggerhead is considered threatened and the rest are on the endangered list.

Interestingly, 90 percent of the Loggerhead's nesting takes place in Florida , and a majority of those nests are in Northwest Florida .

"We are the principle stewards for this species," said Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission's Dr. Anne Meylan.

Therefore, the Endangered Species Act regulates and directs tracking of nesting sea turtles that are threatened or endangered and walkers or trackers must undergo training to take part in the activity or such activity is against the law.

Each year the agency recruits volunteer trackers who are willing to walk the beach and keep track of the number of turtles that come ashore and nest, as well as help determine the species of the turtle.

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