On World Turtle Day, drink a beer, save (and meet!) a turtle or two

After a full day of tagging turtles in and around Bull Creek in an effort to study their habits and overall health, the nonprofit Turtle Survival Alliance wants to have a beer with you this evening at County Line on the Lake, a barbecue restaurant that has attracted the reptile visitors for years.

Ralph Barrera / American-Statesman. Eric Munscher, director of the North American Freshwater Turtle Research Group, will be back at Bull Creek to tag turtles for long-term research. He said the group chose the area near County Line on the Lake after hearing about the massive turtle congregation at the restaurant.

Proceeds from the beer, of course, will go toward the organization’s efforts at turtle conservation in the U.S. Hops & Grain’s River Beer, an extra premium lager aimed at attracting Budweiser fans, will be $10, with additional pours $4.

The North American Freshwater Turtle Research Group arm of the Turtle Survival Alliance noticed how plentiful the turtles living in Bull Creek have become — perhaps because customers at the County Line have been giving them snacks of the restaurant’s homemade bread for years. The group made its first research study in the area last year and have returned to do so again, according to Jordan Gray of the Turtle Survival Alliance.

People are welcome to watch the group in action as they capture turtles, including those tagged last September, to measure and weigh them, tag new ones and determine their health and sex. They’ll be released back into the water. The scientific effort will run from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. today, which not coincidentally happens to be World Turtle Day.

Afterward, join the turtle researchers and their reptile friends for Turtlemania, from 5:30 to 8 p.m., at County Line. You’ll get a souvenir pint glass with an order of the River Beer.

Here are some important facts from Gray to know about the Central Texas turtles that have so enamored County Line customers and staff over the years.

  • Texas has more species of turtles than most countries in the world, a number that totals to 37 if you count subspecies. That “puts us in a hot spot of turtle and tortoise biodiveristy,” Gray says. Central Texas specifically has about a half-dozen common here, such as the Texas map turtle, the Texas cooter, the Eastern snapping, the red-eared slider everyone is most familiar with, and a subspecies called the Guadalupe spiny soft-shell turtle.
  • Unfortunately, before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department banned the commercial harvest of the state’s turtles in 2007, many of them had their populations dwindle because of the national and international pet and food trade. Ten years later, populations are rebounding in certain areas, while in others, other factors like fire ants and urbanization have kept their numbers low.
  • The North American Freshwater Research Group has now engaged in “long-term population monitoring in Austin, which gives us lots of valuable insight into how these turtle populations are doing in their freshwater habitats,” Gray said. In one word: well. Central Texas’ freshwater springs are filled with mollusks, snails and clams, and the turtles like to dine on them, helping to keep some of these invasive species at bay. The turtles’ heads have actually grown larger as a result of their new diet.

Arianna Auber / American-Statesman. Hops & Grain’s River Beer is on draft and now also in cans at many local restaurants, including County Line at the Lake.


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