Gulf County is the largest nesting place for endangered Loggerhead turtles in all of northwest Florida. Beginning in early May, these beautiful and massive creatures journey to the beaches of Cape San Blas.
We are devoted to the protection of these turtles, and we ask our visitors to please respect and protect them too. From sunset to sunrise, these amazing ladies crawl onto the beach in search of a place to dig their nests. Once the turtle finds a suitable site, she digs an egg chamber, where she will lay anywhere from 70 to nearly 200 ping pong ball-sized eggs. Once finished, she covers her eggs and uses her large front flippers to disguise the nest to protect it from predators. She then crawls back to the ocean, and repeats this process about three times over the course of the summer. After 50-60 days, the eggs begin to hatch. The hatchlings seemingly burst from the sand in large numbers typically in the evening after the sand begins to cool. They instinctively dash for the water, guided by the stars on the horizon. This is an extremely dangerous time for these babies, as many predators such as birds, coyotes, raccoons, and ghost crabs may be waiting for them. The newest threats to the hatchlings are lighting, beach gear, and holes dug in the sand. Lights on the houses or near the beach disorients the babies so that they become unable to find their way to the ocean, or they can become stuck in beach gear or fall into holes too deep for them to get out. The hatchlings that do reach the water are still in danger from predators such as fish and sharks. The hatchlings swim vigorously for about 48 hours to reach a relatively safe area of the ocean. They will float around via the Gulf Stream currents for several years until they are large enough to return near the shore for food. Once they reach 20-30 years old, they return to the same breeding grounds of their parents, and then the females return to the same beach where they were born to lay their own nests.
While you are here, visit the Forgotten Coast Sea Turtle Center. This educational outreach center is devoted to sea turtles and the understanding of our environment and importance of our natural resources to local wildlife.
If you would like to walk along with our turtle patrol during nesting season, adopt a turtle nest, get more information or ask questions, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out their website at www.floridacc.org or follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GulfTurtle.
While enjoying our beautiful beaches from May 1st - Oct 31st, please:
• Shield interior lighting by closing blinds or curtains and turn off exterior lights at night
• Use turtle safe flashlights on the beach at night - the Tradin’ Post offers stickers that you can put on your regular flashlight to make it turtle-safe!
• Remove all beach equipment every evening
• Don't touch turtles, nests, or hatchlings
• Fill in any holes and flatten sandcastles every evening
Leave No Trace
Gulf County has a leave no trace ordinance that can be boiled down to the following simple rule: Whatever you bring to the beach in the morning, should leave the beach with you that evening. (This includes beach chairs, umbrellas, tents, fishing and beach gear, paddle boards, kayaks, and all other items.)
If you do not follow this simple rule, any personal item left on the beach one hour after the published time of sunset may be removed and disposed of by county staff.