Tag Archives: sea turtles

The Great Turtle Release

The weather had warmed and it was time for all the rescued turtles who came through the cold stunning without secondary issues to go back to the sea. As always, the turtle release became a grand show for the public, an opportunity to encourage love of turtles and do a little education. The release was advertised by various means and by the time we arrived with Jack Rudloe, the line into the park was long. We spent 35 minutes in line. We were ahead of the turtles and a good thing we were. I was also grateful we drove in the same vehicle as Jack because by the time we got there, there was no parking left but space reserved for Gulf Specimen Marine Lab staff and guests. It was a huge relief when the vehicles from GSML and Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission finally got in, escorted by park staff down the wrong side of the highway. Other staff and volunteers had arrived ahead of us and set up. There was also a huge and impatient crowd. Traffic meant the turtles had arrived almost an hour late.

 

Dick and I were among those honoured with releasing a turtle. Somewhere in the mix was our own rescue turtle #36. The honourees were gloved and lined up and and each of us were given instructions to carry the turtle to the water and watch and make sure the turtle actually swam away. It was so exciting! The vehicle were emptied and then turtle after turtle was delivered to the FWC staff to be carefully ticked off the roster and then handed off to the honourees. There was no time to find #36. We got the turtle we got. I didn’t care. I know #36 was in there somewhere.

Two turtles went ahead of us. Dick got his turtle first and then I got mine. Dick went first. His turtle swam off sideways into the crowd before heading out to sea. I had to wait while the other turtles left the beach as each turtle had to go one at a time. During the wait I posed the turtle for his admirers in the crowd.

My turtle didn’t want anything to do with being a celebrity and as soon as he hit the water, he was gone like a shot. I was so happy! How exciting to be blessed with a chance to release a wild thing back to the wild.

Many more turtles followed. Some were big turtles. One special great big turtle had been a “guest” at GSML at the last cold stunning. FWC found her tag when they checked everyone for new tags. That really gave the staff a big high and measuring and weighing her meant all kinds of new data on turtle growth.

 

Smiles all around and everyone who was on the permit got to release at least one turtle.

And then it was over and the crowd dispersed and a few of us hung back. The volunteers took down everything and then folks paused for a few more pictures and a few more interviews with the press were in order. And finally we left and went to celebrate with dinner at a local bar. It was a very fine day for turtles. GSML released a video linked below. Dick can be seen in the video. I am there too but only in a drone shot. Just as the last turtle left the non waterproof drone dunked in the water and was fried. GSML was talking about a new drone that was water proof but they still had this one and so it wasn’t really time to spend the money…..  Poor drone sat smoking on a picnic table as the crowds departed. Maybe it is time to buy that waterproof one that can take of and land on the sea.

This will be one of my favourite memories of all time!

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Turtle Rescue

We do get involved in some crazy things, no doubt about it. There was a mass turtle stranding in our area of the panhandle in Florida where we were staying. The last time this happened was in 2010. All the sea turtle people around Florida were out seeking cold stunned turtles due to the bizarre cold weather from the polar vortex. The turtles get too cold and then end up unable to move, floating on the surface. Many drown when they can no longer move enough to even lift their heads up to take a breath. Some end up washed up like debris on the shore where certain death awaits. If the cold doesn’t kill them, predators or dehydration will. Any turtle that could be found would be brought in and warmed and saved to be released when the cold spell passed.

A call went out for folks who could walk the beaches to look for stranded turtles. We were among those who answered the call. Here we are, with other volunteers and staff from Gulf Specimen Marine Lab, getting our marching orders from Cypress Rudloe and “how to help a cold stunned turtle” safety information.IMG_0965

We then drove off to Appalachacola with our crew to meet Captain Ron and his Mrs, Cynthia, of Dream On Charters at the boat dock there. I really appreciated my long johns and Canadian style layering as we raced across the gulf to a small island called Cape St George Island Wildlife Preserve. Hubby dearest and I were assigned the northern side of the island an area with some white sand beaches and lots of muddy tide flats. We were given a folding wagon to transport any turtles we found.

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The day was cool to start but we were warmed by the sun. We had been told to especially check the grass and debris at the high tide line. Our trip was set to coincide with the low tide. We were also told to watch the surf but there isn’t a lot of surf on the inside (mainland side) of the island where the water is shallow and filled with the kind of grass beds green sea turtles love to graze in.

The island is a preserve so there was no one else beyond our team on it and we saw no signs of human life. The island is hardly deserted though as we found bear scat and coyote tracks. We didn’t see any of those.

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We arrived far too late for this poor little turtle. But them a miracle happened! We saw a flipper moving weakly in the air above a clump of seaweed.

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We found one poor turtle barely able to move from the cold. We carefully moved the turtle into the transport wagon and continued looking for more survivors.

In total we walked 10 kilometres (or six miles). We only found one living turtle but we were so happy to be able to save even one. As we walked, we kept the turtle in the sunshine as much as possible to help warm him. The more we walked the warmer he got and he began moving around. If only it had been warmer we could have let him go right then and there instead of lugging him around but the water was only 45F and he needed to be brought in for a vet check and full warming at GSML. Finally, when we had gone 5 kilometres in one direction we hit an inlet where the water was too deep to continue on. We contacted our team’s fearless leader and discovered the boat could not come in close so we would have to return to our starting point for pick up. I tried not to have a good cry and only just succeeded. Then we started back. By now the tide was coming in and the flats were getting wetter and the ground softer. We went as fast as we could to get off the rapidly vanishing tide flats and back to more solid beaches. We had a rest for a bit once we were back on the stable beach and then we continued our slog. Whenever I wanted to stop I looked at the little turtle and carried on.

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Finally, taking turns with the wagon and encouraging each other and breaking for water and snacks, we got back to our starting point. We had company as we waited for the boat.

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The heron is kind of a family symbol often appearing at significant and important events in my husband’s life. We only half jokingly refer to the Great Blue as his totem so we took the presence of one at the landing area to be a sign of karmic approval. Now that we were safe and secure and just had to wait for the boat, we felt a lot better. It also helped that we didn’t have to walk anymore. After about a 30 minute wait our ride back to the mainland came. I passed our turtle guest up to Captain Ron and we all felt great pride that we had succeeded. By the time the boat arrived the little turtle had warmed enough to flap and struggle. That made us all feel better. The turtle then went into an insulated box and since the sun was rapidly setting, he got covered with an insulated blanket.

Rescued Green Transfered to the boat.

As if to confirm karmic blessings we were escorted all the way back to the mainland by several dolphins who put on a fine show for us, playing in our wake and giving us dolphin laughs. I enjoyed the show a lot. Dolphins

When we arrived at the dock we were delighted to pass custody of the sea turtle to one of our team members, Brian, and let him take the turtle back to the lab. Hubby Dearest and I went for pizza on St George Island before heading home. We were REALLY hungry and REALLY sore and REALLY tired. Neither one of us have walked 10 kilometres in a long time. But we were so happy and we felt so good. It had been a grand adventure and so worth it!

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The next morning I got to the lab to check on “our” green sea turtle and I arrived at the lab just in time to see the turtle go into the tank and swim about, fully recovered. The turtle was designated #36 (of 48 rescues). He or she (you can’t tell at this age) got a clean bill of health from the vet yesterday. As soon as it has warmed up enough to be safe for the little turtle to go back to the sea, it will be released.

And we saved him!