Keeping sea turtle nests safe at the beach
This holiday week hundreds of people are hitting the beach during the day. But at night, something else is coming ashore.
Five sea turtle species nest in the Panhandle--and they're either endangered or expected to become endangered.
"We set up our tent here next to the sea turtles for the Fourth of July, we're making sure all the kids keep their toys away from it," said Courtney Warmsley, who's visiting Panama City Beach.
Bay County's Leave No Trace ordinance says belongings should be off the beach between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.
"Whatever you bring on the beach make sure to take back off the beach. The turtles can be obstructed by canopies left overnight, so the Leave No Trace [ordinance] can hopefully prevent that," said Nancy Evou, assistant coordinator for St. Andrew Bay Resource Management Association.
If you are on the beach at night and see a turtle nesting, Sharon Maxwell with South Walton Turtle Watch has reminders about what not to do.
"To them seeing is getting out their cell phone and videotaping it and or taking a picture, and this all requires white light," said Maxwell.
The white light in a camera flash is harmful to the sea turtles because it disorients them or makes them want to stay in the water, rather than come out to lay their eggs. Officials say to use a flashlight with a red light, which is less harmful to the sea turtles.
"I think it's great that people spend so much time and energy to save our wildlife," said Warmsley.
Sea turtle nesting season runs from May 1 to October 31.
If you see a sea turtle on the beach, call Panama City Beach Police at
(850) 233-5000 or the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at (850) 265-3676, so they can properly protect the nest.