Satellite Tracking Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles

satellite transmitter
Kemp's ridley sea turtle returning to the Gulf of Mexico with a satellite transmitter attached.

NPS photo

During the past 18 years, Padre Island National Seashore (PAIS) has been using satellite telemetry to understand migratory patterns and habitat use of adult Kemp's ridleys. From 1997-2014, 89 satellite transmitters were deployed on Kemp's ridleys found at PAIS after nesting. The majority of turtles migrated to northern Gulf of Mexico, mainly off the coast of Louisiana in areas that were near the shore and in shallow water (Shaver et al. 2013). Adult female Kemp's ridleys migrate after nesting to foraging areas that provide food, specifically crab species (Shaver et al. 2013). Several of the tracked females stopped at multiple foraging areas while traveling northward; however, most migrated directly to their final foraging site (Shaver et al. 2013). Many turtles showed foraging area fidelity, meaning they returned to the same areas in different years (Shaver et al. 2013). Adult male Kemp's ridleys are different from females in that they remain close to the nesting beach year-round (Shaver et al. 2005).

Satellite tracking research gives us an in-depth look into the movements of females during their seasonal nesting period and post-nesting migration. The waters off of Padre Island National Seashore are an important migration route for the population, as many females migrate northward after nesting in Mexico (Shaver and Rubio 2008). Knowledge of where Kemp's ridley foraging hotspots are located is important in determining where to direct further research and protection.

To view maps of the tracking research conducted by Padre Island National Seashore visit: under the "Padre Island National Seashore Kemp's Ridley Tracking 2014", "Rancho Nuevo, Mexico Kemp's Ridley Tracking 2014", and "Veracruz, Mexico Kemp's Ridley Tracking 2014" tracking programs.

Information from:

Shaver, D.J., B.A. Schroeder, R.A. Byles, P.M. Burchfield, J. Pena, R. Marquez, and H.J. Martinez. 2005. Movements and home ranges of adult male Kemp's ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys kempii) in the Gulf of Mexico investigated by satellite telemetry. Chelonian Conservation and Biology 4(4):817-827.

Shaver, D.J. and C. Rubio. 2008. Post-nesting movement of wild and head-started Kemp's ridley sea turtles Lepidochelys kempii in the Gulf of Mexico. Endangered Species Research 4:43-55.

Shaver, D.J., K.M. Hart, I. Fujisaki, C. Rubio, A.R. Sartain, J. Pena, P.M. Burchfield, D.G. Gamez, and J. Ortiz. 2013. Foraging area fidelity for Kemp's ridleys in the Gulf of Mexico. Ecology and Evolution 3(7):2002-2012.

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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