Officials are still searching for the person responsible for digging into a sea turtle nest in Orange Beach.Volunteers with Share the Beach, an organization that assists in patrolling the beach to …
Officials are still searching for the person responsible for digging into a sea turtle nest in Orange Beach.
Volunteers with Share the Beach, an organization that assists in patrolling the beach to find and protect the nests, discovered the mess on Tuesday, July 19.
A shovel was left nearby that officials say was used to dig into the nest. The perpetrator left a huge hole and dug down to a protective screen used to deter predators.
Sara Johnson, Share the Beach director, said the unwanted visitor came dangerously close to disturbing the nest's egg chamber.
She said when nests are touched by humans it is usually out of curiosity and not maliciousness. However, in this case the digging was more aggressive and far deeper than they usually find.
"The extent of the digging here is a little bit more malicious," she said. "They wanted to get to something, and we don't know why."
Regardless of the motive, federal law prohibits feeding, touching or disturbing sea turtles in any way. Evening shining a flashlight on a sea turtle is considered illegal. Sea turtles are protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973. Federal penalties include jail time and fines up to $15,000 for each offense.
In Alabama, 60 nests have been found this season across the state's beaches, including 37 in Baldwin County.
Johnson said once a sea turtle lays her eggs and leaves the nest the tiny growing turtles are delicate. During that incubation period under the sand, any adjustment in temperature or jostling of the sand above can destroy the creatures. She said a sea turtle egg removed from the sand will likely not hatch.