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Until recently, the loggerhead was the only sea turtle species known to nest on Panama City Beach.  It is a threatened species which means its population is declining and could become extinct without protection.  A full-grown loggerhead is about 3 ft long and weighs between 200 and 350 lb.  The females come ashore at night to bury about 100 leathery-skinned eggs, each the size of a ping-pong ball.  An endangered green turtle nested on Panama City Beach in 2002, and three more green nests were found in 2013. Two endangered leatherback nests were found in 2012, the first ever on this beach!  The nesting season officially runs from May 1 through October 31.  On Panama City Beach, the first nests are laid near the end of May and the last in mid-August. Hatchlings first emerge in late July, and hatching usually continues through October unless storms wash the nests away.

Female sea turtle deposting her eggs.

Turtle Watch monitors 17.6 miles of gulf beach in Bay County between St. Andrews State Park and Camp Helen State Park at Phillips Inlet.  Since Turtle Watch began in 1991, the number of nests laid in this area has varied widely from a low of 9 in 1993 to a high of 39 in 2012 (see chart below).  Sea turtles are solitary animals that prefer to nest in areas devoid of beach lighting and human activity.  This may explain why the greatest nesting typically occurs on the west end of the beach where development is relatively sparse. The fewest nests are usually laid in the eastern area near the beach clubs Spinnaker and LaVela.

Loggerhead nesting on Panama City Beach, 1991-2013, 492 nests, 21 nests/year average.

See a turtle or tracks on Panama City Beach?
Call 888-404-3922 (24-hr hotline)

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