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One-of-a-kind trailer changing how turtles are rescued in the Coastal Bend

Sea Turtle Rescue Trailer
Posted at 10:27 PM, Mar 03, 2023

ROCKPORT, Texas — KRIS 6 News has previously reported on cold-stunned turtle events or various turtle rescues.

The volunteer group 'Keep Aransas County Beautiful' has a unique creation, a climate-controlled 20-foot trailer to change how turtles are rescued.

Traditionally, people will use pick-up trucks or rent vans to transport the turtles.

“We use our truck and that’s about six to eight turtles unless they're huge. With the trailer we can do up to about 100,” Kathy Cima said, head of Keep Aransas County Beautiful Sea Turtle Rescue.

The group saw a need during turtle rescue events. People would collect a few turtles and have to leave the field to deliver the turtles to safety.

“That means you could be out of the field for two to six hours at a whack. That’s a long time for a volunteer to be away from the field not recovering turtles,” Steve Gregory said, a board member of Keep Aransas County Beautiful.

Gregory had the idea for the trailer and fashioned everything inside.

It has separated compartments, and pools for larger turtles and he can control the temperature from his phone, adjusted for whatever the turtles may need.

It has been two years since the trailer was bought and put into use during the "Big Freeze" in 2021. They transported 409 turtles, he said.

In the last two years, Gregory and the volunteers of Keep Aransas County Beautiful have been able to help just about any organization that needs it, like Mid-Coast Sea Turtle Rescue out of Port O’Connor.

They helped transport 117 turtles in December’s freezing event, driving to Tivoli, Texas to pick up the turtles.

“We could not have transported all those turtles efficiently," Brigid Berger, coordinator with Texas Master Naturalist, Mid-Coast Chapter said. "But Steve showed up with the trailer and he transported four times.”

The Amos Rehabilitation Keep (ARK) in Port Aransas, Texas has been the primary drop-off for these turtles.

“Having these volunteer organizations (that are) able to help us is amazing because it allows us to put our resources into rehabbing these turtles,” Alicia Walker, ARK program coordinator said.

Between all the organizations, there's a lot of communication during rescue events on where turtles need to be helped and where they need to go.

They've all said how amazing it is to them to take it to the next level in helping the Coastal Bend wildlife.

Now retired, Gregory always wanted to be a marine biologist growing up, but he physically wasn't allowed to be one.

“It didn't work out, I had a collapsed lung," he said. "Two things you can't do, be an airline pilot or professional diver. Well, guess what I get to do now? I’m doing everything I wanted to do.”

After getting the idea for a trailer like this, Gregory spent time researching how you might build a trailer specific to turtles. He found no help.

"In the research I did to figure out the best means, I found no other trailers," he said.

That leads Gregory to believe, this trailer he stores at his Rockport home is one-of-a-kind.

With the help of a generous donor, Keep Aransas County Beautiful was able to buy the trailer. Gregory said the donor was looking for a group in Aransas County that supports wildlife.

"If you're a person who sees a problem in your area, you can look to Keep Aransas County Beautiful and all these other volunteer organizations," Walker said. "They noticed a problem and they made it happen and helped to fix it. Which is really just a beautiful and inspiring thing."

If you're interested in volunteering with Keep Aransas County Beautiful, which helps clean up the county and look after wildlife, you can email Cima at kcson@hotmail.com.

But if you are further north and want to volunteer with Mid-Coast Sea Turtle Rescue you can contact Berger at 713-825-1929 or brigidberger61@gmail.com

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