Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles, Endearing and Disappearing

Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles, Endearing and Disappearing

Rescue and Breeding Efforts are Still in Danger

Travel along the lower gulf shores and you might be privileged to meet a Kemp's Ridley sea turtle. They're the smallest in this aquatic group and are considered the most endangered. Egg-laying is an amazing phenomenon and one that's guarded closely by both staff and volunteers representing the National Park Service. Luckily, with recent efforts, they may be making a comeback. Along with plenty of human nurturing and a little luck.

On the Watch for Nesting Spots

Typically, the egg-laying season in Texas and into Mexico is sometime in June and July. The number of turtles coming ashore can also be speeded up with strong winds. Our summer trip was an eye-opener, although we never saw a turtle make shore. The winds blew fiercely, bringing in mounds of seaweed left to dry in scattered piles. For the day, we remained in one spot, hoping to catch a few fish (no luck there). However, about every ten minutes, an ATV came by, on the patrol for turtles either coming in to lay eggs or going out after finishing their task.

It doesn't take long. Females only come ashore for this one yearly gig. They'll dig a little with back flippers, and deposit about 200 ping-pong ball shaped eggs. The entire process takes about an hour and then they disappear into the water once again.

Crews on patrol also rely on visitors to help scout nesting spots. A handout to all guests includes a phone number to call if any turtle makes land. Then, they kindly request that visitors stay in the one spot without approaching or disturbing the egg-laying business.

If you're in the area, pack a lunch and your fishing gear - you might get lucky with a turtle sighting, too!

Photo courtesy National Park Service