April 25, 2011
While May 1 is the official start of sea turtle nesting season in Southwest Florida, sea turtles often follow their own calender. On Friday, April 22 a rare Kemp's Ridley turtle (Lepidochelys kempii) came ashore on Sanibel and gave us our first nest of the season. We didn't quite have the first nest in Lee County, that honor went to Cayo Costa with a Loggerhead nest the night before; we had the most interesting nester. Kemp's Ridleys typically nest during the day, but rarely in Florida. There were only eight nests in the entire state in 2011! Their main nesting ground is Rancho Nuevo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, with additional nesting at Padre Island, Texas. Even though they don't often nest in Florida, this isn't Sanibel's first nest. The last documented Kemp's Ridley nest was in 1996. While they are uncommon on Florida's beaches, they are often found in our waters, which provide important foraging habitat. The Kemp's Ridley is the smallest and rarest sea turtle in the world. They are approximately 100 pounds and measure 2- 2 1/2 feet in length at maturity. They are protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act where they are listed as endangered.