Sea Turtle Friendly Lighting, an Ongoing Community Effort at Alabama Beaches
GULF SHORES, Ala. (WKRG) – Before sunrise, when most people are still in bed, volunteers from Share the Beach are on patrol, searching.
“Potentially a crawling turtle or a nest or a mother turtle still on the beach, that’s what I’m looking for,” says turtle watcher Susan West. Through the red glow of her ATV’s “turtle-friendly” headlights, she sees so much more.
“If people could see what we see, they would understand our efforts,” she says.
What does she see? Giant craters in the sand, dug by swimmers, can trap a turtle. Tents, chairs and other beach equipment are left abandoned, which is strictly prohibited by the Leave Only Footprints initiative and potentially fatal to a nesting turtle. But, perhaps the biggest hurdle is right next to the beach that shines from the buildings that line the sand and even across the street. Amber colored lights are good. White lights can distract and confuse a turtle normally guided by the stars and the moon.
“We’re getting there,” West said. “A lot of the complexes have initiated the renovation themselves. A lot of the single-family homes here have done it.
Sea turtles are endangered, threatened with extinction, and federally protected, which means hefty fines for harassing or injuring a turtle or any part of the nest. “We’re just trying to help the species survive,” adds West. A community effort to help one of nature’s gentle giants make a comeback.