Orange Beach visitors rescue hatchlings in surprise late night appearance

By Allison Marlow
Managing Editor
allisonm@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 7/27/22

Wyatt Baker learned a fun fact on his trip to Orange Beach. Newly hatched sea turtles are fast. Very fast.He knows that now after he came upon a sea turtle nest last week that was spilling over with …

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Orange Beach visitors rescue hatchlings in surprise late night appearance

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Wyatt Baker learned a fun fact on his trip to Orange Beach. Newly hatched sea turtles are fast. Very fast.

He knows that now after he came upon a sea turtle nest last week that was spilling over with hatchlings. As they clambered out of the sandy nest and headed in all directions, Baker knew they had to help them.

"We saw them everywhere and noticed they were going the wrong way," Baker said. He remembered seeing a sign that described the area as an endangered turtle nest and ran to it in hopes of finding a phone number to call.

Sara Johnson, Share the Beach director, answered and walked Baker and his family through the process of rescuing the hatchlings until help could arrive.

It was nearly midnight when Baker and his family came across the scene that he could only describe as "weird."

"I'm from Oklahoma, and I've never seen something like that before," he said. "You wouldn't think they would be going that fast, but they were really fast. When we'd try to catch them, they would take off, and we had to jog after them."

The tiny turtles made their way up to the condo entrances and sidewalks and scooted under raised walkways, some as far as 200 yards from the nest. The group tried their best not to touch the animals but instead scooped them into buckets and pointed them back toward the water.

Johnson said white lights from condos and other buildings have long been a problem for hatchlings erupting from sea turtle nests. The lights disorient the hatchlings, causing them to head toward busy streets instead of the ocean.

Volunteers closely monitor the nests and look for signs that the hatchlings are on the move, such as the sand shifting and dropping near the top of the nest. There was no indication that this nest was ready to erupt.

Johnson said the late-night hatching was a complete surprise.

"They were being sneaky and decided to surprise us," she said. "It's not the first nest surprise we've had. Nature is going to do what nature wants whether we're prepared for it or not."

Johnson and his family visit the Gulf Coast every other year. He said he doubts they will ever have this unique experience again. By the end of the evening, the group helped to corral 58 turtles. Volunteers found more turtles still in the nest several days later.

"It's pretty cool. I was always taught to do the right thing and just help out if I can. Now when we talk about our vacation we can say, it's kind of funny. We saved a bunch of baby sea turtles," he said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime deal."

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