Claudette washes over turtle nests along Emerald Coast, but still intact

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

With the Gulf of Mexico kicking up from Tropical Storm Claudette that recently blew through the area, sea turtle nests took on some water. 

How much and for how long, no one knows.  

“We had to redo two nests,” George Gray of Emerald Coast Turtle Watch said Sunday. “The water got up pretty high, all we can do now is cross our fingers."

This sea turtle nest in Destin had its markers replaced after it was damaged by high water during Tropical Storm Claudette.

In the past few weeks, Gray and his daughter Sara have found three turtle nests, all loggerheads, in the Destin area. 

It’s a common occurrence this time of year for sea turtles to make their way to the beach to lay their eggs.  

Gray patrols from the east jetty in Destin to the Walton County line looking for turtle tracks. Once they find a nest, he marks it off with four stakes and orange flags, then puts signage out identifying what it is and what the penalties are for messing with it. 

After the storm blew through, Gray checked on the nests. One is located on the eastern end of Destiny, one just to the west of the Crab Trap and the other just to the west of the Shirah Beach Access. 

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Gray said the nests located near Destiny and Crab Trap had taken on water. 

“Only one stake was still standing,” out of four at the Destiny nest, Gray said. “We had to redo the entire nest.” 

This is a past photo of loggerhead sea turtles hatching on Pensacola Beach.

The nesting area had to be re-staked and flagged, as well as put in GPS coordinates for where they think the eggs are located. Gray said they mark off about a 10-foot-by-10-foot area. 

As for the nest near the Crab Trap, Gray said everything was still there but just washed to the middle. 

“It was all there but just in a mess,” he said, noting all the stakes and flagging were down. 

This SEA turtle nest in Destin had its markers replaced after it was damaged by high water during Tropical Storm Claudette.

The turtles lay as many as 70 to 150 eggs per nest.  

Were the eggs disturbed or damaged? 

“It depends on how long water was on them,” Gray said. “Any length of time … six to 10 hours, odds are down on them hatching. Getting wet is not a good thing.”

The nest at the Shirah Beach Access seemed to be OK. 

“All the stakes were still standing,” Gray said. 

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The South Walton Turtle Watch Group has identified 20 nests — 19 loggerheads and one green sea turtle. 

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reminds beachgoers they can help protect nesting sea turtles by practicing some simple tips.

“All but a handful of our nests had some washover,” said Lacie Wegner from the South Walton group. “We won't know the extent of the damage, if any, until we excavate them. However, sea turtle nests can withstand some water and still be productive, so we will stay hopeful.”  

The average time before a sea turtle egg hatches is about 60 days, “if everything goes good,” Gray said. “We did the best we could. … Now we just wait and see.”