Rare Kemp’s ridley sea turtle nest seen on Manasota Key

A rare Kemp's ridley sea turtle nest has turned up on Manasota Key
A rare Kemp's ridley sea turtle nest has turned up on Manasota Key(Coastal Wildlife Club)
Published: May. 5, 2021 at 11:41 AM EDT
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Turtle watchers on the Suncoast are celebrating a rare sighting this week on Manasota Key.

A rare Kemp’s ridley sea turtle nest was discovered Monday by a beachcomber, the Coastal Wildlife Club said Wednesday.

“We have our first confirmed Kemp’s ridley nest on Manasota Key,” said Zoe Bass, a state primary permit holder overseeing the club, a group of sea turtle nesting volunteers who patrol Manasota Key.

“A beachcomber contacted us about a sea turtle nesting (Monday) afternoon,” Bass said. “She thought it odd that she was nesting in the daylight. Wilma and I sent out CWC volunteers, Carol and Jeff Rice, and Karen and Isabelle Gilbert to take care of this rare species.”

Unlike loggerhead sea turtles, which generally nest at night, the Kemp’s ridley will nest in daylight.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission describes Kemp’s ridley sea turtles as endangered and “critically imperiled.” Kemp’s ridley is also the smallest of sea turtle species, growing to an average length of 2 to 2.5 feet and with adults weighing between 85 and 100 pounds.

The females generally will lay two to three egg clutches in a season with an average of 100 eggs per nest. The incubation period for the eggs is 45 to 58 days.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the species is named after Richard M. Kemp, a fisherman from Key West, who first submitted the species for identification in 1906. They are primarily found in the Gulf of Mexico, but juveniles are also found in the Atlantic Ocean as far north as Nova Scotia and sometimes even occur in the eastern North Atlantic.

Kemp’s ridley were once abundant in the Gulf of Mexico with tens of thousands of females nesting at Rancho Nuevo, Mexico. The population crashed in the mid-20th century to a low of only several hundred females nesting in the 1980s.

Intensive conservation actions were implemented on nesting beaches and through fisheries management. Bycatch in commercial and recreational fishing gear continues to be the biggest threat facing Kemp’s ridley sea turtles.

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