On Friday, a Sanibel resident reported that a Kemp's Ridley sea turtle — a species rarely found on Florida's beaches — had nested on the island a full eight days before the official start of sea turtle nesting season.
According to Ray Albright, Jr., who came across the turtle shortly after she reached the shoreline around 11 a.m. on April 22, the Kemp's Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii) nested during the day, which is unusual since sea turtles typically nest at night.
Albright immediately notified the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation and remained nearby the nest until Amanda Bryant, SCCF Biologist and Sea Turtle Program Coordinator, could arrive to stake the nest.
"The species is found in Southwest Florida waters, but they rarely nest here. The last Kemp’s Ridley nest recorded on Sanibel was in 1996," said an SCCF press release. "The bulk of Kemp’s Ridley nesting occurs at Rancho Nuevo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, with additional nesting at Padre Island, Texas. There were only eight Kemp’s Ridley nests in Florida in 2010."
Most Sanibel sea turtle nests are Loggerhead turtles, with an occasional Green. Two years ago, a Leatherback nested on Sanibel, only the second recorded Leatherback nest in Southwest Florida.
Kemp’s Ridleys are the smallest and rarest sea turtle in the world. They weigh approximately 100 pounds and are 2 to 2.5 feet long at maturity. They nest from April until July and it is common for them to nest several times during that period.
SCCF monitors sea turtle nesting on Sanibel and Captiva islands. More than 100 volunteers help patrol the beach every morning from May through August to stake and monitor nesting and to get a count of hatchlings after the nest has hatched.
If you come across a sea turtle nesting on the beach, please notify SCCF immediately by calling 472-2329 during business hours or 470-3360 on evenings or weekends.
Readers can learn more about sea turtles at SCCF's Turtle Tracks, offered at the Nature Center (3333 Sanibel-Captiva Road) onThursday, May 5 at 10 a.m. Visit www.sccf.org for additional information.