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Turtle Watch officials still seeing hatchlings despite damage from Hurricane Sally

Published: Sep. 20, 2020 at 9:00 PM CDT
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WALTON COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) -Hurricane Sally left its mark all across the panhandle, including on turtle nests.

Officials with South Walton Turtle Watch said 34 turtle nests were still incubating when Hurricane Sally hit.

Fifteen were lost after the storm because of erosion, but Turtle Watch was able to re-stake 12 nests.

Officials said in the days after the storm, despite the damage, they’re still seeing hatchlings make their way to the water.

“Went out the morning after the storm surge to do our normal checks and noticed we had hatchling tracks," said Area Coordinator for South Walton Turtle Watch Barbara Van Stavern. "After the surge, and the mess we saw, and all the cleaning up and re-staking we did, that was extremely good news for us.”

Officials also want locals to be mindful of any bright lights on the beach during nesting season.

“Sea Turtles when they hatch are drawn to the brightest light on the horizon," said Van Stavern. "On a natural beach, that would be the open water but in our case, since we’re developed we have a lot of issues with lighting. So we did lose some hatchlings because they did go to a house rather than to the water.”

Officials said they’re still working on cleaning up any debris left by the storm so any future hatchlings have a safe path to the water.

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