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Padre Island park cancels public sea turtle releases

Dozens of Kemp’s ridley sea turtle hatchlings make their way to the waters of the Gulf of Mexico at Padre Island National Seashore. Public releases of the tiny turtles have been canceled for the summer due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19. Photo Courtesy PINS/Sue Wolfe

Public sea turtle hatchling releases at Padre Island National Seashore have been canceled for the summer. The popular event attracts between 700-1,200 visitors for each early-morning release, generating national and even international attention to the park.

“Due to the overwhelming popularity of these public events, it is not possible to host them this summer while adhering to social distancing and crowd avoidance guidelines,” states a release from the park rangers. “When conditions and guidance allow, the park will resume these popular turtle release events, as well as, traditional ranger guided activities.”

For now, sea turtle fans can watch the releases on Facebook videos @nps.pais.seaturtles.

The cancelations were done out of an abundance of caution” and “with a heavy heart,” according to posts on the video page.

“We are deeply saddened by this change in policy,” the post continues. “Public releases are one of our favorite park past times because it allows us to show you, our visitors, firsthand how import our work is to the protection of the critically endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle.”

PINS is home to the Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery, which studies conservation of Kemp’s ridley and other sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico.

Lead by Donna Shaver, Ph.D., the sea turtle division was founded in 2003. Since then, Shaver has received several distinguished awards, and is currently nominated for several others.

Padre Island National Seashore is located at 20420 Park Road 22 on Padre Island in Corpus Christ. For more on PINS and other beaches in the Coastal Bend, visit the Beaches Guide.

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