With 32 miles of white-sand beaches, there’s plenty of space to share the beach, especially with our nesting neighbors. Endangered sea turtles make their way onto Alabama’s beaches each year from May to October to nest and lay their eggs. In fact, 22,240 eggs were laid in 2016 on our beaches with 15,035 of those eggs yielding viable hatchings.
Sea turtles have been compared to living fossils. They first appeared when dinosaurs roamed the earth and are the last of the ancient reptiles. Three species of turtles lay their eggs on Alabama’s beaches, including green, Kemp’s ridley and loggerhead. An adult loggerhead sea turtle weighs between 175 and 350 pounds, while baby turtles weigh only one to two ounces. These turtles are protected under the Endangered Species Act, making it unlawful to disturb nests, hatchlings and sea turtles.
To help protect our underwater friends, Share the Beach was formed in 2005 by the Friends of the Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge in Gulf Shores. Each year, volunteers are tasked with patrolling the beach, performing late-night nest observation and educating the public.
Visitors and locals alike line up alongside nests to witness a boil. A boil is when a nest begins to erupt with new hatchlings ready to make their way to the Gulf of Mexico. While it’s an amazing sight, it’s imperative measures are taken to protect our nesting neighbors and their hatchlings.
Sea Turtle Guidelines
- Never disturb a sea turtle nest. If you suspect you’ve found an unmarked nest, report it by calling 866-732-8878.
- During a boil, do not touch hatchlings. Only trained Share the Beach volunteers are permitted to guide or assist hatchlings while wearing protective gloves.
- Bring your camera! Watching a boil is a rare opportunity. Don’t forget to snap plenty of photos and take video, too. However, do not use flash photography on the beach at night.
- Avoid using flashlights on the beach after dark. Sea turtles are attracted to the light and become disoriented while being guided by the moonlight or starlight.
- Remove all beach gear and trash from the beach each night. Sea turtles can become entangled. Nesting turtles will return to the Gulf without laying eggs if they meet obstacles on the beach.
- Do not dig large holes in the sand. If you find holes, help by refilling them. Not only can sea turtles become trapped, but holes are also dangerous for the people who walk along the beaches.
Sea Turtle Statistics
Sea turtles lay an average of 110 eggs per nest; incubation lasts from 55 to 70 days. In 2016, 237 nests were identified at Dauphin Island, Fort Morgan, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. While 15,035 hatched, 14,104 of those made it to the Gulf of Mexico. Sixty-six nests were lost due to water inundation from Hurricane Hermine and other storms. Four nests were lost to predators. Despite these losses, 2016 was an exceptional nesting season for the Alabama Gulf Coast.