Never, never, never give up, is a motto I live by in many aspects of life, and with hunting.
The best adventures in life often come at a cost. Wisdom is gained through working past your circumstances and making the choice to persevere.
If you are windsurfing off of Padre Island Texas, you are likely to look down and see a sea turtle.
Author Kathleen Kalina with a Green Turtle that she rescued. Padre Island, Texas Kalina Photo
Padre Island is the center of the largest population of sea turtles in the world. Four of the seven species are found in the coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico, mostly off Padre Island. If there is a cold snap of water temperture below 55F, the turtles begin to get sluggish and go into a state of being stunned. That means that they can’t move and might drown. Many of the turtles move toward shore to warm up and are found by people who hurriedly bring the turtles to warming pools set up by the park rangers. Once the turtles get warm, they liven up. While I was there from November to February, 507 turtles were rescued, most of them were Green Turtles. Other species found were leatherbacks, loggerheads and Kemp Ridley turtles.
Green Turtle rescued by "Turtle Patrol" Kalina photo
In late March, the nesting season starts, where turtles return to the sand where they were born and lay eggs. Once a turtle is mature, usually at age 10, the female mates with the male in the sea and come ashore to lay 50-130 eggs that incubate for 2 months. When the hatchlings climb out of the nest, they run to the sea to avoid predators such as crabs, coyotes, birds,and fish in the shallows. The hatchlings drift until they are about 1ft long and then move closer to shore to feed.
Mass exodus of new hatchlings as they move quickly to ocean
Turtles can nest up to four times during that year, but only lay eggs every two years. Males never leave the sea.
Sea Turtle depositing eggs in sand
Hatchling turtle after it hatches. M. Sullivan photo
Since all sea turtles are considered endangered and protected by law, research using satellite tags has traced their migrations and nesting areas. Through these strategies it was found that Mexico and Texas have almost all the nesting areas, Padre Island Texas being the highest number.
Turtle tracks in sand as mother retreats to sea M. Sullivan photo
Volunteers in the turtle patrol watch over the 50 miles on each side of the island, for tracks in the sand in order to find nests and put fencing around them to protect eggs from being dug up by the predators. Most species lay eggs at night except for the Kemps Ripley that lays eggs during the day. 119 nests were found in 2014, 72 were on north Padre Island at the national seashore. Funding for protection is from the Federal government and various donors.
Stunned turtles after being rescued Kalina photo
Hawksbill Turtle underwater. NOAA photo
Mature sea turtles migrate thousands of miles between cooler and warmer temperatures. The younger turtles that are around 2 ft in diameter like the one I am holding, live near the coast until they get older and take to open sea. Leatherbacks are known to migrate the furtherest, one was tracked by satellite migrating 12,000 miles, the longest of any animal except one species of bird.
Leatherbacks are the largest sea turtle becoming over 6ft and 2000lbs. The smallest is the Kemps Ripley 23-27 inches and a max of 100lbs.
The sea turtle and land tortoise’s have evolved with similar appearance for 270 million yrs.
The leatherback is unique among the sea turtles because they don’t have a hard carapace (shell) but shell bones covered with a leather like oily skin. The leatherback can swim as deep as whales diving to 3900ft searching for prey and avoiding predators. They regulate buoyancy by the amount of air they inhale.
Sea turtles don’t have teeth but sharp cusps that can crush sharp spines. They feed mostly on Jellyfish and keep them in check. Their flippers are long and paddle like making them excellent for swimming but not for walking on land where they struggle. They have streamlined carapace (shell) that make swimming easy.
The Olive Ridley sea turtle found in the Pacific side of Mexico has the most numerous of nesting females with 800,000.