2010 NESTING SEASON BEGINS

The first 2010 Kemp’s ridley nest on the Texas coast was documented on April 24 at the 35-mile-marker on Padre Island National Seashore. For safe-keeping during incubation, the eggs were taken to the corral near the turtle patrollers’ cabin at the 40-mile-marker where they will be protected from predators until the hatchlings emerge.

As nesting has increased rather dramatically over the last few years, the Sea Turtle Science and Recovery Program at the National Seashore, under the direction of Dr. Donna Shaver, has also received increased and broad-based media attention. Additionally, the public hatchling releases have brought many Texas, out-of-state, and even international visitors to the local area. Last year the releases were attended by approximately 4000 spectators.

A video of the Padre Island-based sea turtle program, produced by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, recently aired on PBS. Those interested in viewing the feature now can go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afgsYchpD_Q. Also, the Padre Island sea turtle work is noted in an on-line feature sponsored by National Geographic Magazine. This is a fun quiz for children and can be found at the link: http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/sea-turtles-quiz/.

If you are on the beach and see a nesting turtle, you should call 361-949-8173, ext. 226 to report the location so that the nest site can be protected and the eggs taken to a protected incubation site. If you want to obtain information on hatchling releases, call the hatchling hotline at 361-949-7163.

Submitted by Venice Scheurich & Mina Williams, April 27, 2010

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                                                RESULTS OF 2009 NESTING SEASON

As hoped, the 2009 Kemp’s ridley nesting season set new records for the sixth consecutive year. According to Dr. Donna Shaver, head of the Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery at Padre Island National Seashore (PAIS), 197 nests were confirmed on the Texas coast. There had been 195 in 2008. Of this season’s 197 nests 117 were within PAIS. This is a 26% increase over the 93 nests which were documented within the Park in 2008.

An unprecedented nesting event occurred on June 1, when a Kemp’s ridley nested on the beach of Corpus Christi Bay. Excavation of the nest, witnessed by a gathering of interested observers, received detailed coverage on the front page of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times the next day. To see the story with related pictures and video, go to

http://www.caller.com/videos/detail/kemps-ridley-sea-turtle-nests-north-beach/ .

 Throughout the season, every issue of the Padre Island Moon dedicated a column to nesting and hatchling events. In addition, extensive local and out-of-area TV and print coverage of the PAIS turtles occurred frequently.

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times published an impressive editorial summarizing PAIS’s successful efforts in nurturing the comeback of the critically endangered Kemp’s ridley in the August 2, 2009, edition of the paper.  The editorial began with a picture of hatchlings heading into the surf and called attention to the fact that hundreds of people regularly turn out for early morning releases as the tiny turtles begin their life in the sea. It concluded with this paragraph:

The survival of the Kemp’s ridley is still in the balance.   This year’s nesting season on the Coastal Bend coast is over, though nature goes by its own calendar. For now, at least, the volunteers have done their work, the last clutches of eggs have been laid in the sands of the island for this season and those hatchlings who survived the unforgiving odds against them are at sea, following the age-old currents of the deep. Next April, how many turtles will return is unknown, but they have many friends along the Coastal Bend beaches.               

 Readers interested in detailed official accounts of nesting and satellite tracking of the PAIS turtles can find this information on the PAIS website at http://www.nps.gov/pais/naturescience/tracking.htm.

Submitted by Venice Scheurich and Mina Williams

February 10, 2009

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                        2009 KEMP’S RIDLEY NESTING SEASON MAKES NEWS

Padre Island National Seashore (PAIS) is the most important Kemp’s ridley nesting beach in the U.S., and 2008 was the fifth consecutive year that record numbers (195) of their nests were found in Texas .

Early in the 2009 nesting season, on several dimensions, media attention has focused on the PAIS Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery  which is directed by Dr. Donna Shaver.

Coinciding with the start of nesting season in April and beach patrolling by NPS bio-techs and volunteers searching for turtles’ tracks and nests, a new speed regulation of 15 mph for all vehicles driving on the southern end of PAIS went into effect and will remain effective through July 31. The previous year-round speed limit from the 5 mile marker to Mansfield Channel was 25 mph.

This lower speed during nesting season is strongly supported by PAIS officials and turtle team volunteers since the turtles sometimes nest in or near vehicle ruts. These nesters are very hard to see since they frequently are nearly covered with sand while laying eggs in their motionless, trance-like state.

Dr. Shaver, in the April 17 edition of the Padre Island Moon, wrote: “This reduction in speed limit will enhance safety for the public, park employees and volunteers working on the beach, pets, and nesting Kemp’s ridley turtles and their nests.”

Coastal Bend Sierra Club’s Vice-Chair Mina Williams’ article in support of the lowered speed limit appeared as a ”Viewpoints” column in the April 19 edition of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. To read this article, click on http://caller.com/news/2009/apr/19/a-lower-speed-limit-is-needed-during-critical/.

The first Kemp’s ridley nests in the U.S. this year were the three found on PAIS on April 15. On April 23, ten nests were found on the Texas coast. Channel III’s Katy Kiaser arrived at one nest site that day to interview Dr. Shaver while tracks were still visible and eggs were being retrieved. Kiaser’s story for that evening’s newscast included rare footage of a Kemp’s ridley as she prepared her nesting site.

To watch this fascinating report, click on http://www.kiiitv.com/news/43588157.html.

Additionally, Caller-Times reporter Elaine Marsilio wrote a story including pictures about Dr. Shaver’s Cairn terrier Ridley. The story was featured on the front page April 27. Ridley has been trained to locate nests which cannot be found by human beings after tracks and nest sites have been covered by blowing sand. To read Ridley’s story and see photos of him, click on http://caller.com/news/2009/apr/27/stout-nose-cracks-this-shell-game. For those who wish to see a video of Ridley and Dr. Shaver, go to http://www.caller.com/videos/detail/padre-island-national-seashore-nest-detection-dog/.

 And more, on May 1, the Caller-Times editorial board honored Ridley and Dr. Shaver by presenting them ROSES in one of the editorials. You may access this at http://www.caller.com/news/2009/may/01/a-rose-for-a-turtle-sniffing-dog/.

 Anyone interested in knowing where Kemp’s ridleys go after nesting on Padre Island will be pleased to find the research paper by Dr. Shaver and PAIS turtle biologist Cynthia Rubio. The paper, recently published in vol. 4,”Endangered Species Research,” summarizes post-nesting movements of 28 Kemp’s ridley turtles which were monitored using satellite telemetry. The report includes several maps showing paths which the turtles took after they completed nesting for the season. The complete paper in available online at .     http://www.int-res.com/articles/esr2008/4/n004p043.pdf

Because nesting is now increasing exponentially on Texas beaches, Dr. Shaver and her staff are expecting another record high for nests documented here this season. Already this year, by May 2, there have been 48 nests documented on the Texas coast. To follow this year’s nesting activity, go to http://www.nps.gov/pais/naturescience/current-season.htm.

 To obtain the latest information on public hatchling releases, call the Hatchling Hotline at 361-949-7163.

 Submitted by Venice Scheurich and Mina Williams, May 3, 2009

 

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                                  FANTASTIC START TO 2008 KEMP’S RIDLEY NESTING SEASON

By day’s end on May 1, 2008, forty Kemp’s ridley sea turtle nests had been documented on the Texas Coast. More than one-half (23)
of the nests were found on North Padre Island, including eighteen (18) on the National Seashore. This total of forty is more than double
the number (19) found by this same date in 2007.

Dr. Donna Shaver and her staff, at the Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery at Padre Island National Seashore (PAIS), are ready
for another record-breaking nesting season.  If this year’s nest count exceeds 128, it will mean that nesting has increased for the fifth
consecutive year. Nesting has shown a notable increase each season for the past four years.

The size of the cabin at the 40-mile marker has been increased to accommodate a larger seasonal staff of biological technicians—some
of whom will monitor corrals near the cabin. This will be the first season that beach corrals (protected areas) will be used at the National Seashore
to incubate some of the eggs. Most of the eggs, as in the past, will be brought to the Turtle Lab at Division Headquarters for monitoring during
incubation and hatching.

Of special interest during the 2007 season was the finding of a nest by Dr. Shaver’s trained cairn terrier Ridley Ranger. After tracks were seen on
North Padre Island
, but were made nearly invisible by wind-blown sand, staff and volunteers tried unsuccessfully for five hours to locate the nest.
Ridley Ranger was brought in and located the nest within five minutes of his arrival. To see his picture and read more about this event, go to:  

http://www.nps.gov/pais/naturescience/dog-to-help-staff.htm                                           

Again this year, some of the turtles will be tracked by satellite. The tracking maps for turtles which have been fitted with transmitters can be viewed
by going to www.seaturtle.org and finding the link for PAIS turtles.  When the baby turtles hatch, the public will be invited to attend some of the
hatchling releases. For details, call the Hatchling Hotline at 361-949-7163.

Submitted by
Venice Scheurich and Mina Williams
May 2, 2008

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Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle Recovery Program 2006

Record-breaking season for the endangered Kemp’s ridleys in Texas

The 2006 nesting season was record-breaking. Fortunately, the new sea turtle facility was completed in the spring, because the much-expanded incubation space was needed to accommodate many more nests than ever before. This year’s 102 nests on the Texas coast doubled last year’s 51. Of this year’s nests, 64 were at Padre Island National Seashore, 13 on South Padre Island, nine on Galveston Island, seven on Boca Chica Beach, four on Matagorda Island, three on North Padre Island north of Padre Island National Seashore, one on Mustang Island, and one on Surfside. Additionally, two loggerhead nests were found on the Texas coast this year, including one at Padre Island National Seashore and one on South Padre Island. Also, one green turtle nest was found at Padre Island National Seashore. Hatchling releases were attended by hundreds of enthusiastic fans. These releases—free to the public and starting at approximately dawn on scheduled days—have become a major attraction to the Padre Island National Seashore.

The success of the Kemp’s ridley Sea Turtle Restoration and Recovery Program on Padre Island is due to the more than twenty-five year dedication of Dr. Donna Shaver. She is assisted each year by her seasoned staff (particularly by veteran turtle biologist Cynthia Rubio) and more than a hundred volunteers who patrol the beaches in shifts from 6:30 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. seven days a week during nesting season (April through mid-July).

Interested potential volunteers should contact the staff at the National Seashore. For more detailed information about the Kemp’s ridley Sea Turtle Restoration and Recovery Program, log on to http://www.nps.gov/pais/

Four sea turtles are being tracked by transmitters which were applied during the 2006 nesting season. Folks interested in following these turtles can log on to http://www.seaturtle.org, click on "tracking," and find the Padre Island sea turtles on the list.