Releasing Sea Turtles Makes Us Happy!

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.

By Teresa Shumaker

If you have stopped by our facility in the last couple of weeks, you may have noticed that we have a lot of empty tanks. And although we know it can be a bit of a bummer for a visitor to only see a few turtles when they stop by, those empty tanks are a sign of pride for us. The reason over half of our facility’s tanks are vacant is because most of the sea turtles in our care have been rehabilitated and released back into the ocean.

On September 22, we released two juvenile green sea turtles during a dolphin watch tour with American Diving. Then on Oct. 7, six sea turtles were released several miles offshore, where the sargassum mats float in the ocean. Then, on Friday, Oct. 17, four more sea turtles were released from the beach at Isla Blanca Park.

Our tanks at Sea Turtle, Inc. are for hospital care, and we have seven resident sea turtles who cannot be released back into the wild, so they stay at STI year-round. Our Executive Director, Jeff George, commented that it has been a long while since our facility has had so few patients and ultimately that is a great thing!

But visitors shouldn’t worry. This down time in turtle patients is only short lived. Soon our facility will be filling up again as the cold weather approaches. During the winter, we get overrun with patients suffering from a form of hypothermia called “cold-stranding” or "cold-stunning." There have been some peaks in winters past where we have had hundreds of turtles. One especially cold season in 2011, we enlisted help from the Coastal Lab, the Gladys Porter Zoo, Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge, and the Texas State Aquarium to shelter the some of the turtles because we did not have enough room at our facility to care for so many.

Winter time means our ATVs move out of the garage and the floor is lined with tanks in preparation for the chilly weather. Soon, we will be preparing our permanent tanks as well.

Aside from cold-strandings, we also have sea turtles coming to the center due to injury or illness, which is a year-round need.

This is why empty tanks are a good thing! And while we have so few patients, we are working hard on preparing for the demands of the winter season.

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

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