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Officials remind beach goers to keep the beach clean, dark, flat amid sea turtle nesting season

Published: Jun. 10, 2021 at 4:38 PM EDT
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FRANKLIN COUNTY, Fla. (WCTV) - It’s the season for toes in the sand at Forgotten Coast beaches, but for the next six months, it’s also home to sea turtle nests. Giant dug up holes, forgotten chairs and umbrellas can be seen up and down the beaches and are becoming a problem in Franklin County.

Those are not just a nuisance; holes and debris can be deadly for sea turtles now in the middle of nesting season, which runs from May through October.

The Alligator Point Sea Turtle Patrol in Franklin County said it really can be life or death for these sea turtles.

The Patrol offered three things to remember: keep the beach clean, dark and flat.

“When you have encountered a female loggerhead who has come onshore and tried to nest and has gotten tangled in a chair and died, or fallen in to a hole and smothered and died, it’s pretty devastating,” said Patrol Director Michelle Darpel.

Darpel said that’s why it’s so important to leave no trace, but the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office said as beaches get crowded, deep holes and forgotten belongings begin to line the shore.

“Debris on the beach, garbage, stuff like that has been a big problem, not only Alligator Point, Dog Island, Saint George Island,” said FCSO Sheriff AJ Smith.

The Leave No Trace ordinance means you could be fined for leaving items or holes unfilled.

The Patrol also said that cleaning up is critically important as eggs begin to hatch, a journey that sets their path for life.

“Their little brains are imprinted with magnetite,” explained Darpel. “So as they crawl across the sand, they’re sort of like a little GPS. They’re imprinting that exact location of the beach so that when they become adults thirty years later and come back to nest, they automatically come back to the beach where they were hatchlings.

Leaving the beach clean, dark and flat is a small effort to protect life along the Forgotten Coast.

Signs are posted at each of the Alligator Point beach access points, and the Sea Turtle Patrol is hoping to eventually have them in all the rentals as a reminder to leave no trace.

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