Caution! Turtles are on the Beach!

A bright yellow flag with a black silhouette of a sea turtle flying in front of a small one story building.
The yellow turtle flag flying at the Turtle Lab at Park Headquarters.

NPS Photo.

 

Learn and Explore

If you visit the park during sea turtle nesting season between April and mid-July, you might see a bright yellow flag with a black silhouette of a sea turtle flying at the Entrance Station and at Malaquite Visitor Center.

 

This flag is flown each day that a Kemp’s ridley nest is found anywhere on the Texas Coast. Nesting can occur during any day of the nesting season but when the flag is flown the probability of finding a nest is higher. And the probability of a turtle being on the beach is higher, too. We want everyone to use caution when driving on the beach on days we fly the yellow turtle flag. Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are the smallest sea turtle, about two feet wide, and light in weight. They typically do not leave deep tracks in the sand making it hard to see them when they are on the beach. Additionally, Kemp’s ridleys can be camouflaged, not only due to the olive-green color of their carapace (shell) which blends in with the sand and vegetation but also, they can sometimes become partially covered with blowing sand or sand that they sweep onto themselves. This makes it difficult for predators (and people!) to see them on the beach.

 
A hard to see nesting Kemp's ridley sea turtle blending in with the brown sand on the beach.
A hard-to-see nesting Kemp's ridley sea turtle on the beach.

NPS Photo.

When emerging from the ocean and crawling up the beach, nesting turtles are cautious. If you see a turtle on the beach, do not rush up to her or you may frighten her back into the water without nesting. While depositing eggs, Kemp’s ridleys enter a trance-like state during which time they are oblivious to what it is going on around them leaving them particularly defenseless to threats like predators or vehicle traffic on the beach. At any time during the nesting process they will not and cannot move quickly to avoid a passing vehicle and can be crushed and killed. They sometimes nest in vehicular tire ruts and this, combined with their camouflage, increases their vulnerability to vehicle traffic.

The yellow flag is used to warn beach-goers and anglers to use extra caution when driving on the beach. The flag is flown at the Entrance Station, Malaquite Visitor Center, the Turtle lab at the Park Headquarters, and on UTVs used by turtle patrollers. Even if nesting occurs after visitors have entered the park they can still see the flag flown by turtle patrollers who will cover all 60+ miles of beach throughout the day.

Please use caution when driving on the beach if you see the yellow turtle flag!

 

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-TURTLE5.

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.

 
An UTV driving on the beach with a small bright yellow flag with a black silhouette of a sea turtle.
A UTV flying the yellow turtle flag on a nesting day.

NPS Photo.

 

Last updated: October 3, 2020

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Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 181300
Corpus Christi, TX 78480

Phone:

(361) 949-8068
This is the primary phone number for the Malaquite Visitor Center at Padre Island National Seashore.

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