Nesting season on the Alabama coast is officially underway

Nesting season on the Alabama coast is officially underway
Nesting season on the Alabama coast, under the auspices of Share the Beach volunteers, is officially underway.
Female sea turtles are making their way from hundreds of miles away to lay eggs, which will hatch from May through October on Gulf Coast beaches.
“Our volunteers are out every morning doing their part to find, document and protect new sea turtle nests,’’ said Sara Johnson, Share the Beach Director. “Share these tips (see sidebar) with your fellow beachgoers so everyone can enjoy the experience, and most importantly, our sea turtles can continue to nest undisturbed.’’
Pictured: With help from super shoveler Ellen Murphy and water boy Stephen Hawkins, Sand Castle University (sandcastleu.com) owner Janel Hawkins created a sand sculpture just east of the blue mats at Gulf Shores Public Beach to help announce the start of the turtle nesting season on Pleasure Island.
The turtle, named Big Mama, took most of the day to build and less than a minute to be trampled  by young volunteers.
“We gave her back to the Gulf,’’ Hawkins said. “Smashing our sculptures is necessary in order to prevent hazards for mama nesting or baby hatching turtles. While it may be hard to do, it is for a great cause.’’
Hawkins’ custom sand sculptures have previously been featured on ESPN during the NCAA Beach Volleyball Championships.
“We drew quite a crowd and had so much fun sharing the Leave Only Foot Prints message,’’ Murphy said. “It was a little sad to see her go, but it was kinda fun to see the kids having a blast smashing the sculpture at the end of the day so we could leave the beach just as we found it.’’
Sand Castle University presented information about how locals and tourists visiting the beach can ensure that it is a successful turtle nesting season.
“Something as simple as a red film, which is free at the Gulf Shores Welcome Center, for your flashlight, filling any holes you dig on the beach for fun and even smashing your beach sand castle before you leave can help keep nesting turtles safe,’’ said Murphy, a former Share The Beach volunteer.
“Can’t wait until our first real turtle mama makes her appearance,’’ added Johnson.

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Keep these tips in mind if you spot a sea turtle:

• Stay back (at least 30 feet away), stay low, and stay quiet. Sea turtles only emerge from the water to nest, so give them space to do their mama stuff!

• No white flashlights and no flash photography. Bright lights are extremely disorienting to sea turtles and should be avoided on nesting beaches. If you must have a light, use a dim red LED flashlight, like ours from Maglite. And remember never to shine a light, even a red light, directly at a sea turtle.

• Call our hotline! Report any nesting activity to (866)SEA-TURTLE or (866)732-8878.

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