GALVESTON, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) — An ocean conservation nonprofit is warning that as Gulf coast beaches reopen post COVID-19 closures, people should remain cautious amid nesting seat turtles.

With communities seeing an increase in activity on beaches, experts with Turtle Island Restoration Network remind community members and visitors to not disturb the animals if they are encountered, and to report any sightings to local officials.

“If we want sea turtles to return to our beaches, everyone must do their part to ensure these endangered species are protected,” said Gulf Program Director Joanie Steinhaus. “Every nest counts.”

(credit: Getty Images)

Five endangered and threatened sea turtle species – the Kemp’s ridley, loggerhead, hawksbill, leatherback and green – return to Gulf coast beaches from March to October each year to lay their nests. During this time, if a nesting sea turtle is on the beach, it is important for people to keep their distance.

This includes avoiding flash photography, making loud noises, and ensuring others do not approach the turtle. Give her 30 feet of space as she crawls to the dunes to nest, and as she returns to the water.

Do not disturb the tracks or the nest cavity and call the Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network in your state to report the sighting:

Texas: 1-866-TURTLE-5

Conservationists say anyone calling should be ready to report the location of the nest and take note of any landmarks to identify the area.

“Since we weren’t able to patrol for nesting sea turtles at the beginning of the season, we will need our community’s help to ensure all nesting sea turtles, eggs, and hatchlings are protected,” Steinhaus said.

It is a federal crime to harass or harm a sea turtle.