GALVESTON, Texas — Galveston Island State Park had an exciting visitor this weekend as a Kemp's ridley sea turtle laid a nest there for the second year in a row.
The park offers visitors a quiet piece of the island, whether they come from out of state or out of the sea.
“It’s probably one of the quieter beaches and it’s attracted sea turtles because of that," said Dr. Christopher Marshall, the director of the Gulf Center for Sea Turtle Research at Texas A&M Galveston. “World’s most critically endangered sea turtle and they are the main nesting turtle sea turtle in our area.”
The Kemp's ridley sea turtle is no stranger to the Texas coast, but they hadn't visited Galveston Island State Park in about a decade until last year.
Over the weekend, another one of those turtles found a spot to nest at the park.
“I think it’s exciting because we haven’t seen a nesting Kemp’s there for so long, and we’re always wondering why because it’s really optimal sea turtle nesting habitat," Marshall said.
He said on Sunday, a turtle made its way to the sand dunes at the state park and laid 84 eggs. Someone saw her and called his team.
"The whole reason for our Sea Aggie Sea Turtle Patrol is to go and monitor our beaches for nests," Marshall said.
He said his team removed the eggs one by one to take them down south.
“All the nests are excavated, they’re taken out of the ground and sent to Padre Island National Sea Shore," Marshall explained. "Those eggs go into an incubation facility where they’re protected and then they’re released down there.”
He said that so far this year, his team has excavated six nests from Surfside to Bolivar, but this is the first for Galveston.
He said because most sea turtles lay eggs every two to three years, this is probably not the same turtle they saw last year - which is good news.
"If we see more next year, that’s definitely going to be showing that the number of turtles at least coming to Galveston Island State Park are on the rise and you can infer that that’s good for the population," Marshall said.
He said because we're in the middle of sea turtle nesting season, there may be another turtle coming to the park. If you see a sea turtle nesting, do not approach it. Instead, call their sea turtle hotline at 866-887-8535.