"Turtle Patrol" by Pat Lippke

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"It was my first turtle patrol. I was excited but apprehensive. Can I do it? Will I be able to pull my weight? Will I be able to find turtle tracks? Find a stranded turtle? Save an injured turtle? Here I was … a 67 year old grandmother on a new adventure. There were only 2 things I knew for sure; one, I wanted to be helpful, and two, I have a heart for turtles.

The first day was hot, windy and my partner and I were in our ATV heading north on the island. My eyes were glued to the sand watching for the slightest indication that a turtle had come across our path. I was surprised it required so much focus and concentration. There was very little conversation. It was intense. We found lots of tracks but none of them from turtles. After our first long, hard day of patrolling, we returned to the house, showered, ate and went to bed.

The second day started at 5:45 a.m. It was hot, windy and again it was difficult to talk and concentrate at the same time while searching for any signs of turtles. Our ATV got stuck, we blew a tire, we patrolled until 4:30 p.m. having found only a dead badly decomposed turtle. We did our paperwork, returned to the house and I wondered if I was just not good at this.

The third day at 8:30 a.m. “Stop!” I screamed at my patrol partner. This was the big one… textbook picture tracks going in and going out!! A disturbed area…we had found our nest!! Ashley, our turtle patrol coordinator, came to the site and excavated 98 Kemp Ridley turtle eggs barely an hour old. The nest was low on the sand and wouldn’t have survived the first big tide. I was a mother! Words couldn’t express how I felt. I had helped save 98 endangered babies!

Like all volunteer work, you get more back then you ever give. My experience was priceless and I am so grateful to have had this opportunity. I found out I could do this and, I might even be pretty good at it. I can’t wait until next year!"

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