The Upper Texas Coast Sea Turtle Patrol found its first Kemp’s ridley sea turtle nest this month -- and was able to examine the turtle after it laid its eggs, which provides important information to sea turtle biologists.
The patrol is a collaboration of Texas A&M University at Galveston and Turtle Island Restoration Network,
One part of examining a post-nesting turtle involves looking for past ID tags. The past tags are attached to the trailing edge of a sea turtle's foreflipper -- and a transponder tag is placed under the skin of the foreflipper.
“Our turtle had an active (transponder) tag,” said Dr. Christopher Marshall of Texas A&M University at Galveston. “The tag allowed us to identify if this animal had nested on the Upper Texas Coast before. ... We discovered that this turtle had laid a nest on Galveston Island 11 years ago in 2006. Our first 2017 Kemp’s ridley sea turtle likely came to the Texas coast to nest every two to three years to lay her eggs since her capture in 2006, but was not captured again until this year."
The Kemp’s ridley is the most endangered sea turtle in the world. It nests only in the western Gulf of Mexico. Their primary nesting beaches are in Mexico and South Texas but turtles do nest on the Upper Texas Coast.
Volunteers patrol Texas beaches April 1-July 15 each year looking for turtle tracks -- to find and carefully excavate the nests.
Excavated eggs are taken to an incubation facility (PAIS) to hatch -- because eggs in this facility have a greater hatching success than in the wild.
Sea turtle gender is determined by nest temperature, so the facility is able to raise mostly females -- which can help increase the population.