Monday, October 4, 2010

Ridley Ranger is a Cairn trained to help locate nesting turtles at Padre Island

Reposted from

Ridley Ranger is a four-year old Cairn Terrier that has been trained to find Kemp’s ridley nests at sites where park staff have been unable to locate them. Biologists want to find nests so that that the eggs can be protected from things that could harm them on the beach.

Ridley Ranger Locating Nests

Finding nesting turtles can be very difficult because the turtles blend in so well with the sand, and they are often partially covered in sand while nesting. Sometimes it is impossible to find the nest because a large portion of the tracks have blown away by the time that biologists arrive. During May of 2006, Dr. Donna Shaver, Chief of the Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery, started training Ridley to find nests at sites where biologists could not, and he has been a member of the sea turtle team ever since.

In June 2006, Ridley located a weeks old nest at Padre Island National Seashore. Biologists had spent hours looking for this nest on the day that a turtle came ashore there, but were unable to find it. Weeks later they returned with Ridley, who was still early in the training. He eagerly searched the hot beach and laid down on the exact spot where the nest was located.

During 2007, staff and volunteers spent five hours searching a site that had been found by beach patrollers on North Padre Island. Unable to find the nest, they marked the site and called in Ridley. He was brought to the site and found the nest immediately. Thanks to Ridley, 92 healthy hatchlings were successfully released from this nest in July 2007.

During 2009, Ridley found another nest on North Padre Island. Staff and volunteers searched this location for three hours. As the sun started to set and the beach cooled, Ridley was brought from the air conditioned vehicle, charged up the beach, and found the nest immediately. He gently pawed the sand and directly beneath biologists found 76 eggs that they retrieved for protected incubation. The resulting hatchlings were released in July 2009.

Ridley Ranger also Used to Verify False Crawls

Sometimes, a sea turtle comes ashore to nest but fails to do so because she was disturbed or found the nesting site unsuitable. This is called a “false crawl”. Another goal of Ridley’s training has been to use his skills to help verify whether a site is false crawl or a nest is present there, so they know how much additional searching and monitoring might be needed at a site. Since his initial training in 2006, Ridley has been brought to some locations that biologists thought might be false crawls. He diligently searched these sites, but was unable to find nests, reinforcing to biologists that nests were likely not present there.

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