Alabama sea turtles bring the miracle of life back to our shores each spring when nesting sea turtles return to the place of their birth to make nests and lay eggs. In recent years, Share the Beach, Alabama’s sea turtle program, stepped up efforts to protect turtles and their nests. In 2014, approximately 7,000 sea turtles hatched along our shores from Dauphin Island to Orange Beach.
Leave Only Footprints, a new initiative launched in February, aims to make the beach a safer, cleaner place for people and critters alike, sea turtles included. Under the rules of Leave Only Footprints, visitors must take all of their equipment with them each night when they leave. That means all tents, canopies, chairs, rafts, toys and trash need to be gathered and removed; they cannot be left out for the next day’s activities.
The Leave Only Footprints rule requiring holes deeper than 12 inches to be refilled benefits Alabama’s sea turtles by creating a safer beach to cross. Adult sea turtles must make their way from the Gulf of Mexico across the beach where they will build a nest away from the water. When the hatchlings emerge from the eggs, they must find their way back to the Gulf of Mexico, usually by starlight or moonlight.
Here are a few other interesting facts about Alabama’s sea turtles:
- Three species nest on our shores: green, Kemp’s ridley and loggerhead. All are protected by the Endangered Species Act.
- Sea turtles have been around since dinosaurs ruled the earth – about 200 million years.
- Sea turtles surviving to adulthood can have a lifespan between 30 and 50 years.
- These turtles are big! The smallest, Kemp’s ridley, can weigh up to 100 pounds, while the green and loggerhead species can weigh in at 440 and 500 pounds, respectively.
- Baby sea turtles return to lay their eggs where they themselves hatched. This may be because they remember or imprint a particular smell, chemical makeup or magnetic location of the beach.