NAVARRE BEACH — The first leatherback of the sea turtle nesting season was recorded over the weekend.

Saturday, volunteers with the Navarre Beach sea turtle watch recorded photos and video of 5-foot-wide tracks left on the beach.

George Gray has been coordinating the local sea turtle programs around the Emerald Coast for 23 years. He said the leatherback is not only the first this season, but the first ever recorded in Navarre Beach.

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"The most common sea turtles we have are the loggerhead and in my area (Okaloosa Island), the occasional green turtle," he said. "Leatherbacks are more common in the southern part of Florida and the east coast."

Leatherback turtles are the largest sea turtle species, weighing as much as 1,500 pounds. Robbin Trindell, biological administrator for Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation said leatherbacks are considered an endangered species in Florida.

"While loggerheads are more common — we get tens of thousands of those — we do see a few thousand leatherbacks in the east and western panhandle," she said.

Loggerheads may leave tracks in the sand about 3 feet wide, Gray said. Green turtle's tracks are about 4 feet wide and Kemp's Ridley "maybe a foot." But a leatherback can leave tracks up to 7 feet wide, which is how volunteers were able to discern what kind of turtle made the tracks.

"You know it's a leatherback because it looks like a bulldozer came up on the beach," Gray said.

Gray admitted he was a little bit jealous that the leatherback chose Navarre Beach over Okaloosa Island, which he personally monitors during sea turtle season from May 1 to Oct. 31. But he was happy to know it wasn't too far away and stressed how important it is to be mindful of sea turtle habitats this time of year.

"If you see one coming to nest you do not want to molest it. Turn off all the flashlights, no flash photography," he said. "If you do that, you'll get to see something that just a handful of people have seen in person. It's just awesome."