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Endangered Turtle Nests Found in Texas

The Associated Press
Tuesday, September 4, 2007; 4:15 PM

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas -- Wildlife officials counted a record 128 Kemp's ridley sea turtle nests this summer on Texas beaches.

The majority were found in the Corpus Christi area, including 81 on North Padre Island and four on Mustang Island.

"We are very encouraged to have four consecutive record years for nesting," said Donna Shaver, chief of the division of sea turtle science and recovery at Padre Island National Seashore.

National Park Service staff and volunteers patrolled daily looking for the endangered turtles and their nests during the nesting season, which runs from April to mid-July. The patrollers jointly covered 73,632 miles over 8,895 hours this year, the Park Service said.

Shaver said it's difficult to find the nests, because often the only hint a mother turtle leaves is a faint trail in the sand.

"It's very difficult work because they nest during the day and tracks blow away quickly," Shaver said. "They don't leave much of a trail because they are the lightest and the smallest of the sea turtles, and they tend to nest on windy days. It's a combination of both skill and luck and being at the right place at the right time."

Wildlife officials released 10,594 Kemp's ridleys hatchlings along the Texas coast this year.

Shaver said the increase in nests is a result of protection efforts in the United States and Mexico, the turtles' primary nesting destination.

Kemp's ridley sea turtles have been on the endangered species list since 1970. Adults grow to about 2 feet in length and weigh up to 100 pounds, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The turtle population has been threatened by factors including shrimpers' nets and their popularity in Mexico as boot material and food.

"I'm just so happy about the increasing numbers that we've been documenting in the last few years, and it gives us great hope that these increases are going to continue in the future and that we are on our way to helping preserve the species," Shaver said.

Linda Morehead started as a volunteer turtle spotter and now is paid by the Park Service to patrol the beaches, looking for nests.

"There is lots of solitude," she said. "You drive many, many miles and you find some turtles. For an outdoors person it is perfect."

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Information from: Corpus Christi Caller-Times, http://www.caller.com

© 2007 The Associated Press