Tourists aren't the only visitors coming to Walton County beaches in a couple of months.
With sea turtle nesting season lasting from May to October, the South Walton Turtle Watch Group is looking for volunteers to help survey the beaches. However, time is running out for those interested. According to Sharon Maxwell, a member who holds the sea turtle permit for non-state park Walton County beaches, the deadline to apply is March 1.
Maxwell said the upcoming deadline was to was due to a training session volunteers were required to undergo by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Training will take place at Gulf Coast State College in Panama City on March 13.
"(Training) is pretty in depth," she said. "We try to screen people before to make sure they're really interested. It sounds like it's going to be fun, and for us who've done it for so long it is, but it's a commitment."
She said the group is looking for volunteers who are willing to patrol a least one day a week starting at around 5 a.m. South Walton Turtle Watch group is responsible for covering all beach-front areas in Walton every day during nesting months, apart from state parks.
Last year, she said the group tended to 66 nests, all of which were loggerhead sea turtles.
Maxwell said while it seems numbers are going up, sea turtle nesting habits are sporadic, and female turtles typically don't nest two years in a row. This makes it tricky to know which species will show up.
In 2017, they observed a record-high 127 nests.
"We have a hard time because the high sea turtle nesting season is a high tourist season," she said.
"It all depends on if a person is on the beach when a turtle comes up."
Maxwell said there are always instances of people disturbing the nests — she said Miramar Beach is the worst — but that more people are learning about the group and sea turtle conservation.
"We want to make sure that people know yes, it's fun, it's great to find tracks, but one time out of 100 you might see a sea turtle," she said. "I've been doing this since 1995, and I have never seen a sea turtle on the beach."
To volunteer for the South Walton Turtle Watch Group and view its requirements, visit www.southwaltonturtlewatch.org.