Sea Turtle Releases

Sea Turtle, Inc.'s facility on South Padre Island, TX, serves as a hospital for sick and injured sea turtles. Each year we rescue and rehabilitate 100+ sea turtles with the goal of returning these turtles to the wild. We also monitor about 50 miles of beach from April to July searching for nests. The nests are then relocated and protected in a special corral until the turtles hatch and are ready for release. Below is information about the different types of sea turtle releases.

A juvenile Atlantic green is held up by intern Hilary Frandsen before she returns to to the Laguna Madre, where many juvenile Atlantic greens forage on sea grass. Teresa Shumaker photo.

A juvenile Atlantic green is held up by intern Hilary Frandsen before she returns to to the Laguna Madre, where many juvenile Atlantic greens forage on sea grass. Teresa Shumaker photo.

Types of Releases

To receive text message and email invitations to our public hatchling releases, become a member!

We also post on our Facebook and Twitter page when releases are scheduled to happen. Most releases are scheduled a few days ahead of time — but hatchling releases are an exception. Hatchling releases are scheduled last minute, whenever the young sea turtles hatch. Read more below to learn more about each type of release.

 

 

Hatchling Releases

90 Kemp's ridley turtles fight their way to the ocean on the morning of July 8. The odds are tough for the Kemp's ridley. Only one to three in 1000 will live long enough to return to the Texas beaches to nest. Teresa Shumaker photo.

90 Kemp's ridley turtles fight their way to the ocean on the morning of July 8. The odds are tough for the Kemp's ridley. Only one to three in 1000 will live long enough to return to the Texas beaches to nest. Teresa Shumaker photo.

Hatchling season varies, depending on when the nests are laid. It can begin as early as June and run into August.

Not all hatchling releases are open to the public. Hatchlings can only be released when they are in an active state (known as a frenzy). When the hatchlings frenzy in the middle of the night, the hatchlings are released on the isolated northern beaches by trained staff members. These releases are not open to the public. When they frenzy at dawn, we host a public release. Usually notice for public releases is an hour and a half before the release.

Public releases are held when hatchlings frenzy in the early hours of the morning and are held at dawn, between 6:30 to 7 a.m., at County Beach Access 3 (approximately ½ mile north of Sea Turtle, Inc). Hatching dates are ESTIMATED… only the hatchlings can decide when they are ready to go!

If you are coming to town specifically to see a hatchling release, please select a range of dates where several nests are due to hatch. This will increase your chances of seeing an early morning release. We post estimated hatching dates on the “nest activity page” and the “about releases page,” so you can plan your trip accordingly.

To find out if there will be an early morning public release, please call the Sea Turtle, Inc. Hatchling Hotline AFTER 10 p.m. The recording will tell you when a public release is expected. The recording will be updated between 5:30 a.m. to 6 a.m. that morning with a definite yes or no. If you cannot get through to our hotline, check our Facebook and Twitter page for any updates. (If you are a member you will get email and text message notifications.)

Hatchling season has begun! Check the Google Calendar below to see the estimated hatching dates.

 

Public Boat Releases

Educator Caitlin Bovery is holding a juvenile green sea turtle named Olive on our boat release on Sept. 22. Brooke Goodspeed photo.

Educator Caitlin Bovery is holding a juvenile green sea turtle named Olive on our boat release on Sept. 22. Brooke Goodspeed photo.

Juvenile green sea turtles inhabit the shallow waters of the Laguna Madre Bay area. We release green turtles into South Bay. This area has plenty of sea grass beds which is their favorite food. These releases are done in partnership with American Diving, a dive and dolphin watch company on South Padre Island. These releases are open to the public. Cruises are usually 1.5-2 hours and consist of the turtle release and a dolphin watch. Click here to see a boat release video.

 

 

 

 

 

A Kemp's ridley swims away during the Oct. 7 offshore release. Jean Petit photo.

A Kemp's ridley swims away during the Oct. 7 offshore release. Jean Petit photo.

Offshore Releases

Hawksbills, adult greens, juvenile Kemp's ridleys and loggerheads are released offshore. They are taken to an area with suitable habitat, depending on the species. Sometimes we take them to an area where there is a known strong current or a good patch of sargassum. These releases are done in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard and are not open to the public.

 

 

 

 

 

Public Beach Releases

Al, a sub-adult loggerhead, is carried to the shoreline for his beach release. He crawled the remaining way into the ocean. Teresa Shumaker photo.

Al, a sub-adult loggerhead, is carried to the shoreline for his beach release. He crawled the remaining way into the ocean. Teresa Shumaker photo.

Adult loggerhead and Kemp's ridley sea turtles are allowed to walk down the beach on South Padre Island. These releases are typically held in Isla Blanca County Park. Please make sure to check for the exact release location within the park, because the location changes depending on ocean conditions and turtle needs. Click here to see a beach release video.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tag and Release

Sea Turtle, Inc. staff work quickly to tag a female Kemp's ridley sea turtle after she laid her nest in May, 2015. Roel Gonzales photo.

Sea Turtle, Inc. staff work quickly to tag a female Kemp's ridley sea turtle after she laid her nest in May, 2015. Roel Gonzales photo.

Sea Turtle, Inc. participates in the Cooperative Marine Turtle Tagging Program (CMTTP) which is  a centralized program to manage tagging data and facilitate exchange of tag information. Each rehabilitated sea turtle that returns to the wild — and meets the size requirements — is outfitted with two types of tags; a Passive Intergrated Transponder (PIT) tag and a metal Inconel (flipper) tag.  Each tag has a unique serial number which allows the turtle to be easily identified in case of future stranding, nesting, or re-capture. This data can be used by researchers to study possible migration routes and growth rates of the turtle. Additionally, in nesting females, the tags allow us to record which beaches an individual momma uses to nest and how often they come up to lay eggs.

PIT Tags

PIT tags are small microchips (about the size of a grain of rice) that are inserted with a special applicator. They are a subcutaneous chip, which means it sits under the turtle's skin. To check for this tag, a special PIT tag scanner is needed. This scanner can pick up the presence of a tag and allow us to read the unique serial number on the tag. It is placed in the same flipper as the metal flipper tag.

Flipper Tags

A close up of a nesting Kemp's ridley sea turtle's flipper tag. Flipper tags are used to identify individual sea turtles and document when and where they are nesting. Kat Lillie photo.

A close up of a nesting Kemp's ridley sea turtle's flipper tag. Flipper tags are used to identify individual sea turtles and document when and where they are nesting. Kat Lillie photo.

Flipper tags are metal tags that are attached to the outside of a turtles flipper by a special tool. The tags can be applied to different flippers, depending on what beach the turtle comes from. Sea Turtle, Inc. tags rehabilitated turtles on the left front and left back flipper. The serial number on the tag is clearly visible to the naked eye.

*PIT and flipper tags are useful for identifying individual sea turtles, however, they are not satellite tags and do not track the turtles. Satellite tags are applied to sea turtles to track specific migration paths and determine habitats, feeding grounds, and nesting beaches for sea turtles. Sea Turtle, Inc. has had a few turtles from our facility satellite tagged. For their migratory paths (and other sea turtle tag information) click HERE!*