GULF SHORES, Ala. (WKRG) — Before the sunrises, while most people are still in bed, volunteers with Share the Beach are on patrol, looking.

“Potentially a turtle crawl or a nest or a mama turtle still on the beach that is what I’m looking for,” says turtle spotter Susan West. Through the red glow of the “turtle-friendly” headlights of her ATV, 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 beach-goers, that can trap a turtle. Tents, chairs and other beach gear are left abandoned something strictly prohibited by the Leave Only Footprints initiative and potentially deadly to a nesting turtle. But, maybe the biggest obstacle is just off the beach shining from the buildings that border the sand and even across the street. Lights that are amber-colored are good. White lights can distract and confuse a turtle normally guided by the stars and the moon.

“We’re getting there,” says West. “A lot of the complexes have initiated the retro-fit on their own. A lot of the single-family homes out here have done it.”

Sea turtles are endangered, at risk for extinction and federally protected which means big fines for harassing or harming 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.