Kemp's Ridley Turtle Nests in Florida

Mote Marine Laboratory’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program had fantastic news to report from their adventures in nesting season this past weekend. An actively nesting Kemp’s Ridley turtle was found on Casey Key in Sarasota County by a beachgoer and photographs were sent directly to Mote for identification. Mote confirmed the ID and has setup watch on the nest alongside their usual monitoring studies (which are only possible thanks to the work of over 200 volunteers and staff of the Laboratory).

Why the fuss? Kemp’s Ridleys are the smallest and rarest of all seven species of extant sea turtles and in 2008 just thirteen nests were reported from the entire state of Florida. In fact it has been ten years since two confirmed nests of Kemp’s Ridleys were reported from Sarasota County! Thanks to current protections for the species set up within the Gulf of Mexico (including those lovely turtle excluder devices, or TEDs, on shrimp trawlers) population numbers are starting to rebound on the historic natal beaches in Rancho Nuevo, Mexico and Galveston, Texas.

This single nest site is interesting for another reason: Kemp’s Ridleys usually nest onshore in giant congregations known as arribadas. These enormous groups bring to mind animals like horseshoe crabs or spawning capelin, and only one other species of sea turtle follows this aggregating nesting behavior while other species tend to use the same areas but arrive on their own. Kemp’s Ridleys are unique as well for typically nesting during daylight hours while other species tend to nest exclusively at night.

I noted previously that nests are popping up on the Atlantic Coast of Florida and have since heard that they were indeed loggerheads. I’m keeping my eyes open though – it would be a definite milestone in my life as a naturalist to see a wild Kemp’s Ridley nesting or crawling!


One Comment to “Kemp's Ridley Turtle Nests in Florida”

  1. That’s great news that Kemp’s Ridleys are working to make a comeback in Sarasota. There has also been a steady increase in Kemp’s Ridleys nests on the Texas coast as well. NOAA and the NPS reported that from 2002-2006 a total of 251 nests were recorded. Yet, on the Texas coast in 2007 the number grew to 128 and in 2008 it was 195 nests.

    Hopefully we will continue to see positive signs from these sea turtles.