Green sea turtles nests are common in Florida but are rarely seen in Alabama.

By John Mullen

June 24, 2019 – Orange Beach, AL (OBA®) – Share the Beach sea turtle volunteers in Orange Beach were abuzz after finding a nest on June 23, only the second one ever documented by a green sea turtle in Alabama.

“The last one that I knew of was in 2008 on Gulf State Park beach,” Orange Beach Team Leader Lisa Graham said. “One of our tropical storms destroyed it. We had another around the same time but it turned out to be infertile. There was one year when one came up in front of Lighthouse in Gulf Shores but it didn’t nest.

Orange Beach Share the Beach Team Leader Lisa Graham.“There’s only been two documented green turtle nests on Alabama beaches. We were thrilled.”

Graham said the crawl of green sea turtles is unique from the more common loggerhead turtles that nest on Alabama beaches.

“If you look at it compared to a loggerhead, greens crawl with an even flipper mark,” Graham said. “They move simultaneously. Loggerheads crawl by alternating flippers. It’s so pretty and perfect. She’s also got a bigger tail drag in the middle and there’s little ridges. You can tell this is not our loggerheads.”

She was also a little bit more determined that the loggerheads as well.

“She knew what she was doing,” Graham said. “Our loggerheads have been nesting too close to the water. They stop because of the loungers or the lights or whatever. This one, she went 205 feet to the dunes. She actually went up into the dunes and turned around and came back out and nested right down in front of the dunes.”

There was evidence on the beach that someone was in the area while the turtle was crawling to nest and nesting. She also avoided several obstacles to carry out her mission, Graham said.

Green sea turtle 4“When we got there, we saw fresh footprints all around and back behind her in the dunes,” Graham said. “Somebody had placed a log up there where she turned around and I don’t know if this person was trying to help her or harassing her. We just don’t know. We were thrilled we got a nest out of her because they could have very well scared her off the beach.

“She ran into the vendor’s white boxes on the way out and she started heading into a lounger but turned to avoid and got back to the water. She also hit a lounger when she came in and turned at the lounger and came it. She had obstacles and somebody was out there and she still nested.”

Green sea turtle 2Volunteer Jeannetta Bell found the eggs in the nest after it was located by Michele Finn who was doing a patrol in place of Gayle Cahn.

“Poor Gayle, she had been out of the country and it was her day to walk,” Graham said. “She was taking that day off and she came out to the nest.”

Graham said green sea turtles are also bigger than loggerheads by 100 to 150 pounds and can grow to as much as 450 pounds. The width of the crawl was 43 inches.

While they are rarely seen in Alabama, there is a thriving nesting population in Florida and they also nest in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, among other places around the globe from the Pacific islands, Hawaii and Oman in the Mideast.

“Nest numbers in Florida have ranged from 435 laid in 1993 to 13,225 in 2010, which likely represents over 5,000 females nesting in 2010,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s website. In 2015, the number of Florida nests had risen to more than 37,000.

Four sea turtle deaths have been reported in Florida in the past week including a green sea turtle that washed up at Park East in Pensacola. Two, including a Kemp’s Ridley and a green sea turtle, were found dead in Destin and another was found in Gulf Breeze. Wildlife officials said all four deaths were caused by either fishing lines, nets or being struck by a boat.

Graham said she hopes another rare turtle sighting is in store for Share the Beach volunteers.

“The leatherbacks they are out in the Gulf and we don’t have any documented nests on our beach but they are getting a little closer,” she said. “They’ve been over in Panama City and Navarre and nested over there. I’d like to see a leatherback next.”

Since sea turtles nest about every two weeks during the nesting season Graham said she also hopes the green sea turtle returns to make another nest soon.