Alabama Sea Turtle Nesting Season Facts

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Sea turtle patrols each year begin on 1 May and end on 31 August. The turtles lay an average of 110 eggs per nest with an incubation period of 55 to 70 days.

Share the Beach volunteers monitor several areas of Alabama’s coastline, devoting their time to searching for new nests, marking them and protecting the nests and hatchlings from natural and human-related dangers. Between 2010 and 2019, an estimated 66,915 hatchlings have made it to the water from Alabama’s beaches.

Alabama Sea Turtle Year in Review

2019

During the 2019 nesting season, 114 nests were documented on Alabama beaches. One of the 114 total nests was laid by a green turtle on June 22 on Orange Beach, with the remaining 113 nests those of loggerhead sea turtles.
The 2019 nesting season represents a 36.6% increase in recorded annual nests from 2018, and 51.5% fewer nests than the maximum number of nests recorded in Alabama (n=235 in 2016).
An estimated 7,037 eggs were laid on our beaches in 2019, with an average clutch size of 103.6 eggs per nest. Approximately 3,597 hatchlings successfully made it to the water with an overall hatching success of 51% for nests on Alabama beaches. This hatching success rate includes the impacts of both TS Barry and high levels of predation on the westernmost end of Dauphin Island. Average incubation period was 56 days for this season.
Tropical Storm Barry impacted Alabama beaches on 11-14 July. Collectively, 66 nests (57.9%) were negatively impacted by the storm surge and/or the rise in groundwater associated with this storm system.
We are continuing to work towards mitigating/reducing the negative impacts of artificial lighting on sea turtles. However, in 2019, 17 adult female sea turtles and hatchlings from 7 nests were disoriented due to artificial lighting.

2018

A total of 92 nests were documented on Alabama’s beaches. All but one of these nests were laid by loggerhead sea turtles, with a single Kemp’s ridley nest laid on Fort Morgan.
The average incubation period was 56.6 days and the average clutch size was 109 eggs. Out of an estimated 6,623 eggs laid on our beaches, approximately 4,829 hatchlings successfully made it to the Gulf of Mexico. This yielded an average hatching success rate of 74.7%.
In 2018, Alabama experienced increased significant storm surge due to Tropical Storms Alberto and Gordon, as well as Hurricane Michael. Collectively, 32 nests were negatively impacted by these events, with 15 of those nests completely washed away.

2017

The 2017 Sea Turtle Nesting & Hatching Season along the Alabama Coast saw its fair share of impact from tropical storms & hurricanes. However we can still count 2017 as a successful season.

From a total of 178 nests there were 43 nests inundated by storms and 9 infertile nests. There were an estimated 18,716 eggs laid this year. The 126 nests that hatched yielded 11,528 hatchlings of which 10,718 made the trek to the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. This yields a hatchling success rate of 61.59% with a hatchling survival rate of 57.27%. The Average Incubation Time of the viable nests was 59.4 days and the Average Clutch Size was 105.1 eggs.

We continued to see impact from human activity to hatchling success with lighting issues the primary issue. A new hatching protocol was implemented on selected nests to help identify the percentage of disorientations caused by human impacts. Data collected at these nests will aide USF&WS in addressing the problem and perhaps increasing the hatchling success rate in the future.

2016

The 2016 nesting / hatching season was a record breaker for the Alabama coast.  From the 2016 Alabama Sea Turtle Nesting Summary Report of the Share the Beach program:

“A total of 237 nests were located on the beaches of Alabama in 2016. Four of these nests were confirmed as Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles (Lepidochelys kempi( while the rest were Loggerhead Sea Turtles (Caretta caretta). Data gathered indicate that 22,240 eggs were laid on the beach, yielding 15,035 viable hatchlings of which 14,104 hatchlings made it to the Gulf of Mexico. This was a hatchling success rate of 67.91% and a survival rate of 63.71%.” [clip..] “The average incubation time for all viable nests was 56.9 days with an average nest size of 102.3 eggs.”

Although there was a large increase in the number of nests laid, there were a total of 66 nests lost to water inundation caused by tidal surge from Hurricane Hermine and other storm events.  An additional 4 nests were lost to predation. That still does not overshadow the tremendous success of this exceptional nesting season.

2015

In 2015, 114 sea turtle nests (109 loggerhead nests, and 5 of undetermined species) and 65 false crawls were documented on Alabama beaches. There were 8 false crawls that were later determined to be nests. Thus the final count was 114 nests and 57 false crawls. The first nest was documented on May 15th, 2015 and the last nest on August 17th, 2015. The average incubation period was 57.9 days and the average clutch size was 105 eggs. Data gathered indicate that 11,873 eggs were laid on the beach, yielding 8,006 viable hatchlings of which 7,883 hatchlings made it to the Gulf of Mexico. Once again disorientations from lights in condos and houses along with manmade hazards contribute to false crawls and hatchling survivability.

2014

The Loggerhead and Kemps Ridley sea turtle females produced a total of 80 nests during the 2014 season. Even though 7 of those nests were infertile and 3 other nests were lost to storms, the remaining 70 nests produced 6,666 hatchlings that successfully found their way to the Gulf of Mexico waters. The survival rate of 75.22% is the best survival rate since the 2010 BP oil spill. Once again there were many threats on our beaches to the survival of these little hatchlings. Along with the natural hazards of depredation by ghost crabs, foxes and coyotes and loss to summer tropical storms and high tides, there were too many man made (and avoidable) hazards. Among these were: beach chairs, tents, umbrellas and other beach equipment blocking the nesting females, disorientations of both nesting females and hatchlings from artificial lighting on the beach, and – worst of all – human vandalism. The last nest hatched on October 23rd, 2014.

2013

Share the Beach reported a successful season in 2013, with 81 nests found on the Alabama Gulf Coast. While there were eight nests lost to heavy thunderstorms and high tides, the remaining 70 nests produced 4,939 hatchlings and of those, 4,857 were released into the Gulf of Mexico. The survival of hatchlings (number to water/number of eggs) is estimated to be 62.92 percent. Threats to nesting included the inundation to nests by thunderstorms and the resulting high tides, beach cleaning, public-use disturbance to turtle crawls, vandalism, artificial lighting disorientation and obstructions to nesting females. The last nest of 2013 was successfully hatched on Oct. 29.

2012

Female sea turtles laid a record-breaking 149 nests with at least 13,300 eggs accounted for in 2012. Even with a tropical storm and a hurricane off the coast during hatching season, volunteers saw more than 7,200 new hatchlings safely to the gulf’s surf.

2011

A total of 84 nests were accounted for on the Alabama Gulf Coast, making 2011 a banner year for Alabama’s endangered sea turtles. More than a dozen loggerheads were fitted with transmitting tracking devices by a Share the Beach team authorized by the U.S. Geological Survey. Tropical Storm Lee caused the destruction of several nests, but still more than 3,800 hatchlings made their way to the gulf.

2010

Share the Beach volunteers worked extra hard during the 2010 nesting season to protect hatchlings and their nests during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill event. Oil began leaking into the Gulf of Mexico approximately 50 miles south of Louisiana. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service developed new criteria for monitoring sea turtle nests. Turtle nest surveys were conducted in front of nighttime cleanup crews when oil began coming ashore in Alabama. Forty-one loggerhead nests and two Kemp’s ridley nests were located. As hatching neared, the USFWS determined it was too dangerous for the hatchlings to be released into the gulf until more oil cleanup had taken place. As the nests matured, 16 were transported to Cape Canaveral, Fla. via FedEx with an estimated 1,261 hatchlings released into the Atlantic Ocean. Three nests were released off the Florida Panhandle and 24 were allowed to hatch on Alabama’s beaches. Approximately 1,365 hatchlings entered the Gulf of Mexico.

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How Are They Doing? Seasonal Statistics

The patrol season starts May 1 and continues till August 31. Nest hatching continues until October 31. Statistical data from individual nests will be added as information is entered into our database.

Alabama Point - I

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Dauphin Island - J

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East Beach - E

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Fort Morgan - A

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Gulf State Park - G

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Laguna Key - B

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Orange Beach - H

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West Beach II - C

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Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge - R

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