Kemps Ridley Sea Turtles

Lepidochelys kempii
In this part of the Gulf of Mexico, the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle is the most commonly found nesting sea turtle. Sea turtles spend all or most of their lives in the ocean, but female turtles occasionally leave the water to lay their eggs on sandy beaches.

Of the seven species of sea turtle that exist, six are considered “endangered” or “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles are a critically endangered species whose numbers have been reduced for several reasons, both natural and human-caused. These include predation from natural predators, egg poaching, beach traffic, bi-catch from commercial fishing and pollution, to name a few.

Historically Kemp’s Ridleys nested from North Carolina to Veracruz, Mexico. Currently the nesting beaches are located primarily at Rancho Nuevo in Tamaulipas, Mexico, and secondarily at Padre Island National Seashore in south Texas. A few nests have also been discovered on Matagorda Island.

In 2003, the Matagorda Island Turtle Patrol was started in order to monitor sea turtle nests on the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Matagorda Island Unit. Every year since then the Island’s beach is patrolled in search of tracks of nesting sea turtles in the hope of discovering nests. Patrols are during the peak nesting months (April-June). Valuable information on nesting turtles, live stranded turtles, and dead stranded turtles is collected and shared with the Sea Turtle Stranding Network.

Prior to 2011, all nests discovered on Matagorda Island were excavated and transported to Padre Island National Seashore for controlled incubation and subsequent release. This practice is especially important if sea turtle nests are subject to risks such as poaching, human disturbance, abundant vehicular traffic or erosion. In 2011, only two nests were discovered on Matagorda Island. One was left in place and it successfully hatched. The second was in a high-risk location subject to flooding so it was excavated and sent to the incubation facility. In 2012 no nests were discovered on Matagorda Island. Since 2003, staff and volunteers have discovered 40 nests, and 166 stranded turtles (alive and dead).

The Aransas Refuge is committed to aiding in the recovery of sea turtle populations through continued sea turtle patrol efforts and scientifically sound conservation strategies.  

We Need Your Help:  If you see a sea turtle, please contact the Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network.  

Facts About Kemps Ridley Sea Turtles

Status: Critically endangered
Size: 2 feet in diameter
Weight: 100 lbs.
Life Span: 50 years
Feeds on: molluscs, crustaceans, jellyfish, algae, seaweed or sea urchins
Clutch: about 100 eggs, of which one is estimated to survive to adulthood