Families and flip-flops aren’t the only things that make their way onto our beaches from May to October. Sea turtles, too, enjoy the summer season on our shores – that’s when three endangered species come to lay and nest their eggs on our soft, sugar-white sands.
Visitors and locals alike love viewing this remarkable event, but that doesn’t mean you may get the chance to take home a turtle. Protected by law and crucial to the health of our coastal ecosystems, our sea turtle populations benefit from strict regulations that teach us how to correctly share our beaches with our slow-but-steady friends. And thanks to two local programs – Share The Beach and Leave Only Footprints – visitors can also get involved with impactful ways to protect our native sea turtles for generations to come.
Share The Beach is Alabama’s official sea turtle conservation program. Founded in 2005, the program follows protocols set forth by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect and conserve our nesting sea turtles and their hatchlings. Program volunteers patrol the beach during nesting season to monitor nests and hatchlings, educate the public, and provide needed supplies and equipment. They cover all 47 miles of Alabama’s beachfront coastline, devoting their time to searching for new nests, marking and monitoring them, and protecting the nests and hatchlings from natural and human-related dangers.
Leave Only Footprints is a collaborative initiative that works to protect our coastal ecosystems by promoting clean island practices among visitors and residents of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. The program establishes beach rules and regulations that remind beach-goers to pick up their trash and “leave only footprints” to protect the health of our natural landscapes and the animals that depend on them. Among other species, the program policies protect the endangered sea turtles that nest on our beaches from May to October.
How You Can Help
Visitors and locals can volunteer with Share The Beach to help make a positive difference for our sea turtles and their coastal habitat. You can also help by following the guidelines and rules established by our local conservation programs:
- Never touch or disturb a sea turtle nest. Keep your distance and call 866-732-8878 if you find an unmarked nest.
- Don’t use flashlights or flash photography at night. It disorients the turtles. If you need a light, both of our resorts provide red flashlight filters that fit over your phone to protect our turtle tribes. You can also find these “turtle-friendly” filters at the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach welcome centers.
- Don’t dig large holes in the sand, as hatchlings can get trapped in them. Fill all holes with sand before leaving the beach.
- When you depart our beaches each day, leave only footprints behind. Pick up and discard all trash in designated containers. Remove all personal belongings such as tents, beach chairs, toys, etc. by one hour after sunset.