Sea Turtles on the Alabama Gulf Coast
Did you know that many sea turtles call the Alabama Gulf Coast home? That’s right! Loggerhead and Kemp’s Ridley turtles are the most common species that arrive in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach every year to make their nests and lay their eggs.
This is very important to be aware of since the survival rate of a sea turtle is somewhere near 1%. These turtles do not reach sexual maturity until they are 32-35 years of age. Females return to the same beach where they hatched while their male counterparts never leave the water. Females may nest 1-7 times during a breeding season at intervals of about 14 days. When they do lay their eggs, they can lay as many as 126 per nest.
We are now officially in the Alabama Gulf Coast’s Sea Turtle Nesting Season. This typically happens in our area between May and June. The incubation period is between 42-75 days, meaning that nests will hatch between mid-June and mid to late September. Because of so many natural predators, we strive to do everything in our power to help these turtles make their nest and lay their eggs safely along with protecting these nests and assisting new hatchlings into the water safely.
Your next question may be what can you do to help the cause? There are a few very simple things you can do to help! The biggest thing to keep in mind is to only leave behind your footprints on the beach – take everything with you when you leave.
1. Bring reusable plastics: bring a reusable water bottle and transport your items in a reusable bag instead of a plastic one. It’s not hard for a plastic bag to be taken into the water by the wind. Once in the water, plastic bottles and bags resemble jellyfish, which is a common food for a sea turtle.
2. Fill in holes: Of course, you may want to build a sand castle or dig shallow holes with your toes while you are on the beach! Once it’s time for you to head in for the day, be sure to fill them in. This is so either a female turtle coming to lay eggs or those newly hatched do not get lost on their way to their destination. It’s not unheard of for either size animal to not be able to make their way out of a hole in the sand.
3. Keep the beach dark at night: Turtles use the moon for guidance. If they see bright artificial lights, they can easily become confused and head in the wrong direction. If you must use lights on the beach at night, keep your hand covering them whenever not in use and turn them off if you see turtles. Also, if you are staying on the beach, be sure to turn off any outdoor balcony lights and pull the shades when using indoor lights.
If you see a marked sea turtle nest, stay back and do not disturb. If you see an unmarked sea turtle nest, report it by calling 1.866.SEA.TURTLE immediately. If you are lucky enough to see a nest “boil”, keep your distance but enjoy the experience! A nest boil is when dozens and hopefully hundreds of hatchlings erupt from the sand. This is an exciting opportunity to watch baby sea turtles make their way to the sea!
Thank you for helping us keep our beaches as sea turtle friendly as possible! Keep your eyes peeled for your chance to spot these beautiful creatures in our area!
*Information supplemented and/or supplied by cleanisland.org