PENSACOLA BEACH, Fla. (WKRG) — Escambia County announced that a leatherback turtle nest hatched on Pensacola Beach for the first time in over 20 years.

Approximately 60 leatherback hatchlings made their way to the Gulf during the evening of Wednesday, Aug. 10, the county said in a release. Aided by a full moon, the hatchlings were able to make their way to the Gulf unassisted, a rare victory on a developed coastline.

“This is the only leatherback nest in northwest Florida this season and the first to successfully hatch in Escambia County since 2000,” said Mark Nicholas, Escambia County Environmental Program Manager and lead of the county’s Sea Turtle Conservation Program. “It proved to be a long wait for our Sea Turtle Volunteers, who have been keeping an eye on the nest over the entirety of its 78-day incubation. We cannot thank them enough for their patience and dedication to monitoring this nest.”

Though sometimes seen offshore, leatherbacks are considered rare visitors to Escambia County, preferring to nest along the southeastern coast of Florida. Leatherback hatchlings that progress to adulthood will grow to over six feet long and up to 1,500 pounds, making them the largest living sea turtle.

Many nests will be approaching their hatch dates during the late summer months of August and September. There are 39 nests on county portions of Pensacola Beach and Perdido Key. If you see a nest hatching or encounter hatchlings turtles on the beach, call Escambia County Marine Resources at 850- 426-1257 or 850-554-5869. If you encounter a nesting turtle, turn off all lights and retreat a safe distance away.

For more information about sea turtles in Escambia County click here or follow the Natural Resources Management Department on Facebook at @ECNaturalResourcesManagement.

All sea turtle work performed by Escambia County was completed under Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Marine Turtle Permits #032A and #202.