Report Nesting or Stranded Sea Turtles

How to Report a Nesting Turtle

A female Kemp's ridley sea turtle nesting in the sand with green vegetation around her.
A nesting Kemp's ridley sea turtle.

NPS Photo.

If you are walking or driving on the beach at Padre Island National Seashore, or elsewhere on the Texas coast, look for and report nesting Kemp's ridley turtles and Kemp's ridley tracks between April and mid-July. Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are about two feet long and their tracks are about two feet wide.

At Padre Island National Seashore, look for the rectangular "nesting Kemp's ridley alert" flag flown at the Entrance Station, Malaquite Pavilion, and by turtle patrollers on UTVs. This flag has a bright yellow background and a black silhouette of a sea turtle and is flown each day that a Kemp's ridley nest is found on the Texas coast. Nesting can occur during any day of the nesting season, but when the flag is flown the probability of finding more nests is higher. If you are driving on the beach, please drive carefully and slowly.

From May through September, look for nesting sea turtles of other species and their tracks such as green sea turtles or loggerhead sea turtles. These turtles can be up to four feet long and have tracks up to four feet wide. Watch also for hatchlings from other species that could emerge from previously undetected nests and crawl towards the sea as late as October. For these other species, the turtles will nest mostly at night or in the early morning. Hatchlings from these species mostly emerge at night or the early morning.

If you find a nesting sea turtle, sea turtle tracks, or hatchlings, please IMMEDIATELY report them by flagging down a passing turtle patroller, law enforcement officer, or call 1-866-TURTLE-5.

It is essential that you report these observations immediately so that biologists can arrive as quickly as possible to protect the turtles and eggs. Also, please report the nesting turtle as soon as you see her, so that biologists can try to get to the site to examine her before she re-enters the sea.

  • Protect the nesting turtle and hatchlings from passing traffic. Hatchlings and nesting turtles can be difficult to see. If necessary, ask motorists to take another route to avoid damage to the turtles or nests.

  • Allow the turtle to nest undisturbed.

  • After the nesting turtle has started to lay the eggs or when she is returning to the water, photograph or video her and examine her for tags. Photograph or video the hatchlings as they are emerging from the nest or crawling towards the water.

  • Mark where the turtle nested or where the hatchlings emerged from.

  • Make sure that the turtles safely enter the water, but do not place them in the water or touch them.

  • If possible, stay at the site until a park representative arrives.

Your assistance is greatly appreciated and could make all the difference in protecting these threatened and endangered turtles.


How to Report a Stranded Turtle

A live stranded loggerhead sea turtle laying on the beach sand.
A live stranded loggerhead sea turtle.

NPS Photo.

At Padre Island National Seashore sea turtles often strand. A stranded sea turtle is one that is found washed ashore or floating, alive or dead. If it is alive, it is generally in a weakened condition. It is important to watch for and report stranded sea turtles so that biologists can document them. Live sea turtles should only be on the beach if they are nesting, so all live turtles on the beach that are not nesting are either sick, injured, or cold stunned (in shock due to low water temperatures). It is very important to get the turtles to a rehabilitation facility as soon as possible to receive treatment, and hopefully recover to be released later. If you see a live sea turtle on the beach, please call the number below immediately and provide detailed location information.

Dead sea turtles can provide vital information about the sea turtle population in the Gulf of Mexico. Dead, stranded sea turtles will sometimes be salvaged for necropsy and study, and when they are not, they will be removed from the beachfront or marked so that they are not documented again. If you see a dead sea turtle, please report it by calling the number below. Please remember that all species of sea turtles are protected under the Endangered Species Act, and it is, therefore, illegal to take, own, buy, or sell any sea turtle part.

Stranded sea turtles can be found year-round in bays, passes, the Gulf of Mexico, or along the shoreline. If you find a stranded sea turtle, please report it by flagging down a passing turtle patroller (April through mid-July) or law enforcement officer or
call 1-866-TURTLE-5.

When you call:

  • Report the turtle's location, size, proximity to the surf, and condition (alive or dead).
  • Mark the location.
  • If the turtle is alive, stay at the site if possible, until a park representative arrives.

If you accidentally catch a sea turtle while fishing, please call 1-866-TURTLE-5 and allow us to respond. Even if the turtle is alive and looks fine, they can develop complications that can result in death. You will NOT be in trouble for catching these sea turtles; we only want to ensure that they receive treatment and can be released when they are rehabilitated.

Your assistance is greatly appreciated and could make all the difference in protecting these threatened and endangered turtles.


Last updated: June 8, 2023

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P.O. Box 181300
Corpus Christi, TX 78480


(361) 949-8068
Malaquite Visitor Center information line.

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