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Wilde About Texas: Saving Texas' sea turtles
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The 20th century was hard on Texas' native sea turtles.
Poaching nearly wiped out the Kemp's Ridley turtles, but thanks to organizations like Sea Turtle Inc., they're starting to make a comeback.
"The tourists and locals are allowed to come in and see our turtles up close and personal,” Jeff George with Sea Turtle Inc. said. “We also run the conservation program in South Texas. We protect the nesting females and her eggs."
During the late spring and summer, the turtles return to the beaches where they were hatched to lay their own eggs.
Since those eggs are threatened by predators and other dangers, Sea Turtle Inc. works to make sure the nests are protected.
"The female is the only one that leaves the ocean, she comes out, digs a hole, drops about 100 eggs and goes back in the ocean,” George said.
Some of the nests are spotted by people on the beach, others are found by volunteers and interns like Justin Whisant. While the turtles nest during the daylight hours, it still takes some effort to find the eggs.
"The turtles are generally pretty quick about getting up there and nesting and getting back so we look for the track," he said.
Whisant has helped locate several nests in his time with the conservation group, but he says there was something special about his first.
"I got to watch the momma come up, crawl all the way up the beach, nest and crawl back," he said.
When those eggs hatched, they were released back into the gulf. Hopefully, in a few years, some of those turtles will find their way back to South Padre Island, where the cycle and the species will continue.
"We're starting to see a recovery in the species in terms of number of nesting turtles," George said.
Sea Turtle Inc. hosts public releases throughout the summer as eggs hatch. Click here to learn more.