What happens when the expert staff of Padre Island National Seashore’s sea turtle program cannot find a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle nest? They call in Ridley Ranger! Ridley Ranger was a Cairn terrier that had been trained to help find Kemp’s ridley sea turtle nests.
Light Tracks and Windy Days
Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are the smallest of all sea turtles found in the Gulf of Mexico. They only weigh 80-100 pounds. They often come ashore to nest during very windy or stormy weather conditions. The winds and rain blow and wash away the turtle’s tracks and scent, making it harder for predators to find and eat her eggs. But it also makes it much harder for our staff to find and protect her nest.
Dr. Shaver, Chief of the Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery at the park, decided to train her dog, Ridley, to help find nests that were very difficult to find. After months of intensive training, Ridley joined the sea turtle team. Since then, he has demonstrated his dog detective skills more than once.
A Furry Celebrity
Ridley helped the Kemp’s ridley recovery project from time to time. His contributions to sea turtle conservation have been discussed in a variety of media. His success in finding and saving sea turtle nests has been featured in several books, including Dogs of Courage: The Heroism and Heart of Working Dogs Around the World by Lisa Rogak. Ridley has also been featured in articles/media by the Cairn Terrier Club of America, the Corpus Christi Caller Times, Bark Magazine, Dog Fancy, AKC Family Dog Magazine, and Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Ridley's Turtle Dogs
Ridley Ranger served as the official nest detection K-9 for the Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery from 2005-2018. His passing in the spring of 2018 marked the end of a 13-year career in the National Park Service alongside his trainer Donna Shaver.
A new generation of Turtle Dogs have been inspired by Ridley Ranger’s efforts. His legacy will continue through the contributions of other certified canines that seek and detect difficult nest sites at Padre Island National Seashore.
Kayleigh Sunshine followed in the paw prints of her older brother Ridley. Here is Kayleigh learning to sniff out turtle nests by following the nesting female’s scent trail. She started working with the Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery in 2019 and had helped with Kemp’s ridley nest detection since the passing of Ridley Ranger. Kayleigh Sunshine passed away in the fall of 2020.
Meet Kempy, the newest member of Ridley Ranger’s Turtle Dogs. Kempy is named after the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle and other Cairn Terriers in Dr. Donna Shaver’s family that came before him. He has an exciting future ahead of him as a Turtle Dog!
Last updated: April 9, 2021