by Chip Ducrest - February 2011
Yesterday, while windsurfing at Bird Island, I came across one of the many stunned Green Sea Turtles affected by the cold.
Don gave me a heads up to be on the lookout, so I took extra line with me and stuffed it in my wetsuit. It was blowing around 14-18
knots from the south, under a beautiful blue sky. The sailing wasn't so great, but it was good to be back out on the water.
Sure enough, after about 30 minutes of up and down sailing, I ran across this guy in the Intercoastal Canal. Why couldn't
he have been in shallower water???? He had a bit of life left in him, and tried to dive down, but would immediately pop back up.
I jumped in the bitterly cold Intercoastal waterway to grab him, and place the turtle on top of my board. The lines came in
handy as he immediately wasn't comfortable on his first windsurfer, and tried to hop off. I ended up securing him to the
footstraps, (I should have tried putting his fins in the footstraps) and off we went for the mile long shlog back to shore.
It took a while, and alot of my energy was drained sailing back, but it was well worth the effort. We had a welcoming crowd
gather around, once ashore. The guys at Worldwinds were quick to call the NPS, who arrived within a few minutes to take
"Chipper" to the sea turtle recovery center. One of the NPS volunteers noted that most of the turtles rescued have come in
with eyes closed, and less vitality, so I'm hopeful this one will make a quick recovery and get back to the gulf waters.
The last few months of windsurfing have been amazing for me. Back in December, I had the ultimate thrill of windsurfing
with a pod of dolphins near NAS Corpus Christi. I'll save the details for a later post, but having dolphins rub up against
your windsurfer, swim upside down (underneath you), and jump out of the water alongside of you, is AMAZING!
I hope more people get to experience these thrills while windsurfing.
Note: Since sea turltes are protected under the Endangered Species Act, it is illegal to harm or handle sea turtles.
In extreme cases like the exceptionally cold temperatures in the Coastal Bend
this winter, citizens are working with Padre Island National Seashore to help bring
turtles stunned by cold temperatures to shore, because otherwise the animals are
at risk of dying.
- Report stranded, cold-stunned turtles immediately by calling the Padre
Island National Seashore Turtle Lab at 361-949-8173, extensions 226 or 228. If
calling after business hours, dial 361-851-4255.
- Immediately remove the turtle from the wind and cold water. Try to cover it with a dry towel or blanket to prevent further damage
from the wind chill. If the animal is too heavy or too difficult to reach, do not attempt to recover it alone. Wait until help arrives.
- Do not warm the turtle too quickly, as rapidly raising its core temperature can be dangerous or fatal. Be careful not to impede the
weakened turtle’s ability to breathe.
- Try to keep a log of where you found the turtle and note any identifying characteristics (barnacles, injuries, missing flipper, size)
so officials can tell them apart, once recovered. Photographs also can help with the identification.