Kemp's ridley turtle

Kemp’s ridley sea turtle lays in the sand.

The Kemp’s ridley is the official sea turtle of Texas and a very critically endangered species. Our state sea turtle will soon be coming ashore to nest on beaches along the Texas Coast, facing a range of threats from predators to camouflaged nests, which could easily be stepped on or crushed by people or vehicles.

The Kemp’s ridley is the smallest and most critically endangered sea turtle, and adults are usually found in the Gulf of Mexico with some juveniles found along the East Coast of the United States. This turtle is about 2 feet in length and weighs 60 to 100 pounds. These turtles prefer shallow areas with sandy or muddy bottoms in nearshore or inshore waters. Their diet is primarily crab but they will ingest fish, jellyfish and a variety of mollusks. Unlike other sea turtles, the Kemp’s ridley typically nest during the day and will lay about 100 eggs in each nest.

Turtle Island Restoration Network, in cooperation with Texas A&M University at Galveston is sponsoring nest patrols this season, and we will be working with a team of dedicated volunteers to ensure that the world’s smallest sea turtle has the best chance of survival on our shores.

Our mission is to patrol the beaches from Bolivar Peninsula to Surfside for nesting Kemp’s ridley sea turtles and other turtles.

We are seeking nesting patrol volunteers for the 2016 season. Volunteers will undergo training to learn how to properly identify, locate and protect sea turtle nests along the upper Texas coastal areas, and have the satisfaction of helping protect a beloved endangered species. Volunteers are needed for patrol routes beginning in April and ending in mid-July. If you’d like to get involved, please sign up for one of the three mandatory training sessions by Feb. 19.

You may register for one of the training sessions online:

Increases in the turtles’ nesting success is in large part due to the ongoing efforts of the patrols, residents and visitors to protect them.

If you are fortunate to see a female emerging from the Gulf and crawling ashore to lay her eggs in the base of the dune, please do not disturb the turtle in any way. Protect her by keeping people, dogs and vehicles a safe distance from her. Anyone spotting a nesting sea turtle should immediately call 866-887-8535 to report the turtle.

You may find the turtle tracks in the sand. The turtle’s crawl pattern looks like alternating comma shaped marks with a smooth belly drag in the center and possibly a tail mark. You may discover two sets of tracks, one incoming and one outgoing. If you are lucky to discover the tracks please call 866-887-8535 to report your finding.

We are fortunate to share the Gulf of Mexico with such a magnificent, long-lived creature, and with your help we will be able to protect the Kemp’s ridley for many years.

Please send any additional questions by email to

Joanie Steinhaus is the Associate Director of the Turtle Island Restoration Network.


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