The Gulf of Mexico is home to five different species of sea turtles, including loggerheads, greens, hawksbills, leatherbacks and Kemp’s ridleys. These species are all either threatened or critically endangered, and need the help of conservation organizations and dedicated volunteers to recover their population levels.

The Kemp’s ridley is the official sea turtle of Texas and this critically endangered species utilizes the Texas coast as one of two global nesting locations. Beginning in late spring sea turtles will be coming ashore to nest on beaches along the entire Texas coast, facing a range of threats from predators to people.

Turtle Island Restoration Network, in cooperation with Texas A&M at Galveston, organizes nest patrols on the upper Texas coast, and we are recruiting dedicated volunteers to ensure that the world’s smallest sea turtle has the best chance of survival on our shores.

Our mission is to patrol the beaches of Bolivar Peninsula, Galveston Island and Follet’s Island in search of nesting sea turtles.

We are seeking sea turtle nest patrol volunteers for the 2018 nesting season. Volunteers will undergo training to learn how to properly identify, locate and protect sea turtle nests and tracks along the upper Texas coastal areas, and have the satisfaction of helping protect a beloved endangered species. Volunteers are needed for patrol routes beginning April 1 and ending in mid-July. We ask that our volunteers commit to a once a week shift for the entire nesting season. Patrols will be available from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. to noon Mondays through Saturdays on either UTVs or walking routes. If you’d like to get involved, you must complete one of the three mandatory training sessions and be available to volunteer for the entire nesting season.

Increases in the turtles’ nesting success is in large part due to the ongoing efforts of the patrols, residents and visitors to protect them.

If you are fortunate to see a female emerging from the Gulf and crawling ashore to lay her eggs in the base of the dune, please do not disturb the turtle in any way, but protect her by keeping people, dogs and vehicles a safe distance from her. Anyone spotting a nesting sea turtle should immediately call 866-TURTLE5 (866-887-8535) to report the turtle.

We are fortunate to share the Gulf of Mexico with such a magnificent, long-lived creature, and with your help we will be able to protect the Kemp’s ridley for many years.

To register for a training session, visit tinyurl.com/turtlepatrol.

Please send any additional questions by email to turtlepatrol@tirn.net, and more information may be found at 2018seaturtlepatrol.blogspot.com.

Theresa Morris is the gulf program coordinator and Joanie Steinhaus is the gulf program director for the Turtle Island Restoration Network — Gulf of Mexico branch.

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