Around this time last year, the group had already marked 25 of the eventual 66 nests for the year. As of June 19, just 17 nests have been found and marked.

SANTA ROSA BEACH — Numbers are down nearly two months into this year's turtle nesting season, and a volunteer with the South Walton Turtle Watch said she isn't sure why.

Around this time last year, the group had already marked 25 of the eventual 66 nests for the year. As of June 19, just 17 nests have been found and marked.

According to Sharon Maxwell, director of South Walton Turtle Watch, loggerhead turtles make up most of this year's nests, with one suspected to be from a leatherback.

"We've tried all sorts of things, but how do you know?" she said. "I don't know what makes them come in one place and not another, what makes them come in when they do. I don't know."

With more than 60 volunteers scouting the beaches daily, Maxwell hopes things would start picking up before the season ends in October.

Fortunately, she didn't think an increasing light pollution problem was the culprit.

"We have a bad lighting problem, but we've always had a bad lighting problem," she said. "I don't think it's any worse now than it has been."

To prevent bystanders from disrupting the hatchlings, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has instructed the group to stop tagging the nests with the dates they were laid.

FWC hoped this would make it harder for those not associated with the group to pin-point when the nests will hatch, Maxwell said.

"If I could guess, I wouldn't tell you," she jokingly said when asked how long it normally tests a nest to hatch. "If they know ... (some people) sit out there with their flashlights to get the experience."

Maxwell added that other than numbers being slightly down, everything else was running smoothly.

Although customary use is a hot topic in Walton County, she said that most property owners understand that what the group is doing is necessary.

"Walton has its customary use thing, but I'm sure the turtles out in the water know nothing about that," Maxwell said.