Students, Galveston residents look for endangered turtles

Author: Mary Lee, Meteorologist, mlee@kprc.com
Published On: May 08 2012 05:30:43 PM CDT   Updated On: May 08 2012 06:54:17 PM CDT
Kemp's ridley sea turtle
GALVESTON, Texas -

Texas A&M at Galveston students and island residents are now on turtle watch. It's nesting season for the endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtle.

Volunteers, who call themselves the "Sea Turtle Patrol," comb 45 miles of beach from the Ship Channel to Surfside Beach twice a day, six days a week.

These volunteers are hoping to spot and save the Kemp's ridley turtle, the most critically endangered of all sea turtles.

But the Kemp's ridley is a tough turtle to find.

"From the time the Kemp's ridley sea turtle leaves the water, excavates in their chamber, drops their eggs and goes back in the water, (that) can be less than an hour," said Kimberly Reich, Texas A&M at Galveston Sea Life Facility director.

Turtle patrollers are searching for turtle tracks, which will usually lead them to the turtle or its nest. From there, they can help protect the eggs and monitor the adult turtles with satellite tags.

"When I'm on my patrols, I'm hoping to see the tracks. When I do, the feeling is indescribable," said Ashley Sanders, volunteer and Texas A&M at Galveston student. "It makes my day and makes everyone else's day. We really feel like we're protecting an endangered species."

Volunteers said knowing they are helping to save and protect the Kemp's ridley sea turtle is truly rewarding.

"You spend hours on the beach looking for tracks, but when you see something for a split moment, it makes it all worthwhile," said Josh Carter, a volunteer and Texas A&M at Galveston student.

Researchers need the help of beachgoers as well. Any turtle sightings should be reported immediately by calling 1-866-TURTLE5.

Texas A&M at Galveston's new Sea Life Facility has a live turtle cam of a special, rescued Kemp's ridley sea turtle that's missing a fin. The turtle's name is Milagro, which means miracle in Spanish.